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‘Walled-in’: The Psychology of the English Garden in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway

Abstract : Modernist writers are often considered to have moved away from ambivalent or even negative representations of the city – which Victorian writers had depicted as the antithesis to the Eden-like countryside – and shifted towards a celebration of city life. While Mrs Dalloway is celebrated for its city scenes, casual allusions to conversations ‘among the vegetables’ reveal an often overlooked subtext. For Woolf and for Cusk, the garden functions as a contained space through which to work through problematic emotions and achieve at least temporary reconciliation between the past and present. Rather than working within polarised conceptions of a paradise lost or regained, both authors experiment with the idea of a fragmented paradise that can be pieced together in sudden moments of self-realisation. The cultivated space of a domestic garden brings into focus the perception of being ‘walled-in’ (MD, 64) by emotional perceptions of past experiences. Self-consciousness that struggles to be articulated is realised with sudden clarity in heightened ‘moments of being’. Virginia Woolf and Rachel Cusk thus experiment with the trope of the garden in order to explore the depths of the self, beyond the urban spaces that have been so central in their writings.
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Nicolas Boileau, Rebecca Welshman, Nicolas Pierre Boileau. ‘Walled-in’: The Psychology of the English Garden in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Études britanniques contemporaines - Revue de la Société dʼétudes anglaises contemporaines, Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2018, ⟨10.4000/ebc.4483⟩. ⟨hal-01957511⟩

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