Examples of On-line Discussion (counts same as reading notebook). These come from the VWOOLF, the international discussion list on Virginia Woolf.
Toni McNaron said:
>Why not talk about what happens to characters (or people) when they close
>their hearts. This is what Clarissa and Septimus both do when they feel
>themselves drawn to same-sex alliances. Clearly in their cases, it spoils
>any genuine intimacy of any kind. Their efforts to "conform" result in
>their becoming distant and cold with their proper, heterosexual partners.
The following response is 259 words and would count for one of the two required comments per week.
I know that interpretations can differ, but I always thought of Mrs. Dalloway as a book about connections. I don't exactly think that Clarissa "closed her heart" in order to conform. She just wondered why she couldn't connect (with feelings of love) to women as well as to men. Events in her marriage to Mr. Dalloway may have left her feeling alone (e.g., the separate bedroom after her illness). I don't see her as a repressed homosexual woman, rather as a person who wants to expand connections, not restrict them, or as one who made "wrong" connections.
Septimus Warren Smith cannot connect because of his experiences in World War I, especially the horror of losing his best friend. To me Virginia Woolf is trying to say that the terror of mental illness is not so much that the sufferer can't conform (conversion, as Woolf calls it) but that he can't make connections with others. Septimus can't connect to anyone anymore, not even to his wife. He can't even stay connected to his friend through memory. He sometimes can't participate in simple, everyday connections such as watching the sky-writing which for a moment "connected" those who tried to decipher the message.
I have the feeling that many consider "Mrs. Dalloway" a book about homosexuality and that maybe the whole cause of Virginia Woolf's mental illness is that she "lived a lie" and couldn't completely acknowledge her lesbianism. I see an element of bisexuality in both VW and her writing, but to focus solely on homosexuality is to miss a lot.
Kay Saucier, Bel Air, MD
The following is 137 words (including the long quotation). Many people prefer to keep email to short burst that can be read on one screen. That practice is OK, as long as your word count totals about 600 words per week, and you donít rely too much on long quotations to get there!
"Then came the most exquisite moment of her whole life passing a stone
urn with flowers in it. Sally stopped; picked a flower; kissed her on
the lips. The whole world might have turned upside down! The others
disappeared; there she was alone with Sally. . . ."
Truly there are many ways to read a book, and it would be a shame to concentrate on any one of them to the exclusion of others. But not to read Clarissa as, at least, mulling over the choices she's made and the
roads _not_ taken, is to miss a central theme within Mrs. D, I think. And it's very difficult indeed for me not to see the forsaken opportunities (connections, if you will) between Clarissa and Sally, or between Septimus and Evans, as culturally framed & specifically heterosexist.