Strange intimacy: affect, embodiment, materiality, and the non-human in Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys

Talviste, Eret (2019) Strange intimacy: affect, embodiment, materiality, and the non-human in Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how the novels of Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys – To the Lighthouse (1927), Between the Acts (1941), After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930) and Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) – despite being set in times of wars and social change that influence personal lives, maintain an attachment to and love for life. This thesis proposes that Woolf and Rhys ‘locate’ this attachment to life in the moments and atmospheres of ‘strange intimacy’ – in sensual, affective, and oddly intimate moments and settings where characters realise their bodily connection to the world of others, things, and places.

This work suggests that this love for life is cultivated when life is seen as ‘a life’ and selves as ‘haecceities’ in the Deleuzian sense, and when we consider modern life as enchanted, not disenchanted. To examine the love for life and strange intimacies further, this thesis rethinks the works of Hélène Cixous in the light of contemporary theories of affect and new materialism that are inspired by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s philosophies. This theoretical framework allows the examination of the complex ways in which intimacy, selfhood, and desire are portrayed in Woolf’s and Rhys’s modernist fiction. This thesis also demonstrates how post-structural feminism’s focus on radical alterity and its emphasis on and (re)turn to materiality, the non-human, bodies, and affects, which are drawn together in the notion of écriture féminine, pre-figures the concerns of affect studies and new materialisms.

The reading of Cixous’s, Deleuze and Guattari’s, and Bennett’s works performed in this thesis demonstrates how their theories of affect and the non-human help us to further our understanding of intimacy in the works of Woolf and Rhys and to reconsider the life-affirming, affective, and anti-Oedipal qualities of their modernism. Such an approach allows not only the discovery of a new understanding of Woolf’s and Rhys’s writings, but it contributes significantly to how we understand these theories and modernism in general.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hélène Cixous, Feminism, Gilles Deleuze, New Materialist theory, Modernist literature
Subjects: Q200 Comparative Literary studies
V500 Philosophy
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2020 10:02
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2020 10:15
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/42769

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