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Haptic ModernismTouch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing$
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Abbie Garrington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641741

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641741.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf, Hapticity and the Human Hand

Virginia Woolf, Hapticity and the Human Hand

(p.115) Chapter 3 Virginia Woolf, Hapticity and the Human Hand
Haptic Modernism

Abbie Garrington

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that, despite her avowed interest in the exploration of the mind, Virginia Woolf is in several important ways a bodily writer. Beginning with Woolf’s hand reading by Charlotte (Lotte) Wolff, the chapter identifies an abiding fascination amongst Woolf’s social circle with the many meanings of the human hand – its scored palm, its finger shapes and its gestures. Offering a detailed reading of hand-engagement in Woolf’s novel The Years (1937), the chapter sheds light on that oft-neglected book, the conventional form of which belies a cutting-edge appreciation of palmistry and chirology or hand reading. Ultimately, the chapter argues that Woolf’s aim in The Years is to engage with Walter Pater’s theorisation of the moment, as well as with Horace’s notion of carpe diem, or the injunction to ‘seize the day’. The latter underscores Woolf’s repeated attending to the grasping hand as an attempt to halt time. Yet it also functions as a kind of modernist creed, a provocation to other writers to consider literature as a means of stilling time’s flow.

Keywords:   Hand, Palmistry, Chirology, Gesture, Carpe diem, Charlotte Wolff, Virginia Woolf, Walter Pater, Horace

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