Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 2010


Research Adviser: Dr. Wes Chapman


In a 1919 essay, Virginia Woolf wrote that “[f]or the moderns ‘that,’ the point of interest, lies very likely in the dark places of psychology.” For Woolf, this assertion represented a career-long interest in the mind and consciousness; she made a project of describing and explaining the mystery of subjective experience in her fiction. In my paper, I argue that specific, turn-of-the-century psychologists’ and scholars’ theories of consciousness influenced and inspired Woolf to integrate their ideas into her fiction. Further, through an in-depth exploration of Woolf’s middle fiction (Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves), I demonstrate that Woolf proactively interrogated consciousness theory in her novels, ultimately rejecting the reigning models and, in The Waves, forming her own unique conceptualization of consciousness. Finally, I critique Woolf’s innovative theory in terms of contemporary, 21st century consciousness theory, concluding that Woolf’s aesthetically-developed theory of consciousness, in fact, predicted and draws many similarities to current consciousness scholarship.


English Language and Literature