Original material supplied by Jim Reynolds.
Updated April 18, 1998
Created April 18, 1998
What is the current critical status of The Waves?
See Works Cited for full references.
The MLA bibliography lists 49 hits about Virginia Woolf's The Waves from 1963 until 1980, with 118 hits in the years since 1980, suggesting that interest has increased in the past few years.
Modern critics view The Waves in terms of either its political context as a heroic myth [(Alexander 147; Gorsky 47; Graham , "Manuscript" 314; Marcus "Britannia" 137; Poresky Elusive 211-12; Ruotolo Interrupted 171)], or an identity quest that exists both outside and within a social order (this would include feminism) [(Minow-Pinkney 115; Transue 128)]. Earlier criticism focused more on the techniques used and their relations to other modernists works in art and literature [(Gordon 203; Graham "Point of View" 196; Harper 204; Moore, "Nature" 223; Raitt 157; Rantavarra 57; Ricouer 97; Stewart "Spatial Form" 88)].
What Woolf herself originally intended was for it be "about life in general" and her final conclusions were that the six characters were to be parts of a single character, in an effort to show that we are all one and not as separate as we might think (Woolf L4 397). Contemporary readers of The Waves either identified with it, finding it an instant classic or rejected it (Gregor 52), dismissing it as "a highly artificial trick" (Majumdar and McLaurin 283). These two dissenting viewpoints still exist (Gregor 52).
In comparison with her other works, The Waves is most often thought of as Woolf's masterpiece, and as a kind of continuation of To The Lighthouse (particularly the "Time Passes" segment) [(Caughie 47; Hussey Singing 82; McConnell 126)].
By the book's very nature, as an "anti-novel", it is very hard to pin down and criticize, and earlier criticism is not plentiful. It is in recent years that interest in The Waves has increased dramatically, tending to focus on what makes the book particularly Modern (Graham Holograph 13; Hussey Singing 44; Lee 164; Lorsch 132).
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