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Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Worldly Realism$
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Pam Morris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474419130

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474419130.001.0001

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Mrs Dalloway: The Spirit of Religion was Abroad

Mrs Dalloway: The Spirit of Religion was Abroad

Chapter:
(p.55) Chapter 2 Mrs Dalloway: The Spirit of Religion was Abroad
Source:
Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Worldly Realism
Author(s):

Pam Morris

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474419130.003.0003

In Mrs Dalloway, Woolf’s hostility to an idealist consensus, elevating revered abstractions above material reality, focuses upon the use of religious, nationalist and scientific rhetoric to subordinate those perceived as troublesome. Idealists of various kinds, in the text, illustrate the dangerous madness that results when vision disconnects from facts. What these many idealists desire is order and disciplined bodies, an agenda veiled by a spirit of religion. The text is structured upon recurrent references to cars and flowers, things that, in Bruno Latour’s phrase, act as ‘gatherings’, conjoining substantive social forces. So, cars, in the 1920s, point to the inception of ‘Fordism’, the imposition of a radical new regime of industrial discipline. Innovations in horticultural productivity and plant breeding offered ‘scientific’ authority to eugenics as a means of engineering an idealised national identity. Only a materialist perspective, Woolf suggests, can challenge the visionary madness that licenses conscription of fleshly life.

Keywords:   abstraction, material reality, cars, flowers, Bruno Latour, ‘Fordism’, eugenics.

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