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# Virginia Woolf made an original contribution to the form

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Updated on: 21 Oct 2013, 04:02
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Virginia Woolf made an original contribution to the form of the novel, but was also a distinguished essayist, a critic for The Times Literary Supplement, and a central figure of the Bloomsbury group. Dialogic in style and continually questioning what may be the reader‘s opinion (her rejection of an authoritative voice links her to the tradition of Montaigne), her critical essays, when examined carefully, reveal a thematic and technical complexity that rivals her novels.

Some of her most rigorous essays suggest that the personality of the author can be fixed if sufficient evidence can be amassed and if its logical implications are followed. In ―The Novels of Turgenev,‖ Woolf pursues the problem of interpretation on the part of the reader by providing a detailed report of her own response to Turgenev. She does this in order to make possible the question that leaps the gap between reader and text. That question—―what principles guided Turgenev?‖—focuses on the fictional strategies that must have been in operation in order to have produced Woolf's experience. Thus Woolf accounts for this by reconstructing Turgenev‘s method. But she pushes farther insofar as she asserts that the method must be a sign of a deeper informing power, the mind of Turgenev itself. This distance can be traversed by interpretation, Woolf argues, because writers like Turgenev achieve a level of personality beneath the surface distinctions among individuals. Her greatest examples of this impersonal power in the English language are Jane Austen and Shakespeare. According to Woolf, these authors write with a ―clarity of heart and spirit‖ that allows their potential for genius to express itself ―whole an entire.‖ Unencumbered by impediments that would be erected by such feelings on their part as fear, hatred, or dependency, we are allowed by their art to make contact with what is most deeply personal, and therefore most widely human, in them.

But one of the riches of Woolf‘s essays is that they critique this very same possibility of closing the gap that exists between author and audience. This is evinced in Woolf‘s awareness of the contemporary artist‘s self-consciousness: the enemy of human contact and knowing. There seem to be so many barriers on the road to the deepest level of self that the journey there is impossible, but it is this level of self through which the gap must be closed. In fact, Woolf asserts that the journey is impossible for the modern writer. In ―How It Strikes a Contemporary,‖ Woolf contrasts writers of the past—Chaucer is her most powerful example—who believed wholeheartedly in an atemporal order verified by the entire culture, with modern writers who have lost this advantage. Woolf suggests that, if, for writer and reader, no way to a shared, universal level of experience is available, the very ground of the interpretive enterprise is removed.

1. Which of the following would most weaken Woolf‘s assertion that the distance between reader and writer can be traversed by interpretation?

A. Contemporary writers are unable to construct a deep meaning for each reader because they focus primarily on personal distinctions rather than similarities.
B. Every reader reacts differently to the same text and yet each constructs for himself/herself a similar idea of the author‘s personality and presence.
C. Past writers were governed by a strong sense of individualism, which made it impossible for them to appeal to human commonalities.
D. Authorial intent or perspective remains an abstract idea unless the writer is able to confirm or deny the reader‘s interpretation.
E. Most readers are not learned enough to be able to understand the deeper meaning that is implied by the author

2. According to the points elucidated by the author within the passage, all of the following are characteristic of Woolf‘s essays EXCEPT that:

A. they focus primarily on examining whether or not a reader‘s experience of a text can reveal the original authorial presence.
B. they are written in a more technically and thematically complex manner than are her fictional works.
C. they betray Woolf‘s skepticism about the very idea she is attempting to demonstrate and justify.
D. they frequently utilize examples from other writers in order to illustrate and support her conclusions.
E. they are as complex as her other works

3. The passage implies that, in her essay ―The Novels of Turgenev,‖ Woolf assumes that:

A. stable and defining qualities of an author‘s personality are discernible in his or her fiction.
B. interpretation involves a compromise between the reader‘s perspective and the perspective of the author.
C. a reader‘s experience of a novel‘s text is determined by a standard set of fictional principles.
D. making contact with an author‘s mind requires the use of critical reasoning more than intuition.
E. an author‘s literary work must reflect the various facets of the author‘s personality

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Originally posted by Gnpth on 21 Oct 2013, 00:34.
Last edited by Gnpth on 21 Oct 2013, 04:02, edited 1 time in total.
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21 Oct 2013, 03:38
1. e
2. b
3. c

Could anyone please discuss 1 and 3
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21 Oct 2013, 04:15
savvysatyam wrote:
1. e
2. b
3. c

Could anyone please discuss 1 and 3

Question 1:
Woolf argues that readers can understand the writer‘s intent and personality through interpretation--- This is what we found from the understanding.

A: Correctly weakens the above- Hold.

B:This would strengthen Woolf‘s idea that individual readers can use their own experience to discover the author‘s original intent and personality.Opposite.

C:Even if this is true, it would still presumably be possible for individual writers to use their own experiences to figure out what the author was getting at. Out of Scope.

D: While it is true that Woolf thinks that interpretation can close the gap between reader and writer, while it says that the writer has to directly confirm interpretations for them to be valid. it merely a claim that contradicts Woolf and does not give any meaningful support- Out of Scope.

E: Nothing to deal with the qualification of the reader. Out of scope

Question 3:

We get it from paraphrasing the main point from the second paragraph, Now lets look for assumption in the answer choice,

A:which simply restates the point that readers can figure out part of the author‘s personality. If it isn‘t true, the argument falls apart- So hold on.

B:. Woolf is arguing that the reader‘s perspective can be used to discover the perspective of the author; there‘s no discussion of compromise.Opposite

C:Woolf is arguing that the reader uses personal experiences, not standards, to interpret the text.Opposite.

D: If personal experiences are most necessary to understanding the author, then it would seem that intuition is more important than critical reasoning. Opposite.

E: Must‘ is extreme language-Out of scope

Hope it helps
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17 Dec 2018, 08:12
5 mins and all wrong this could well be the toughest passage I have come across. Surprising that no one wants to discuss this passage :-P

Bump.
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17 Dec 2018, 08:36
1
Stumbled across the OE so posting it for benefit of the forum -

Topic and Scope - The author discusses Woolf‘s essays and in particular their focus
on problems of interpretation between the author and reader.

Mapping the Passage
¶1 introduces Woolf and compares her fiction and criticism.
¶2 discusses a particular essay, ―The Novels of Turgenev,‖ and describes how Woolf
uses her own experiences as a reader to understand the author‘s method.
¶3 says that Woolf‘s essays argue that the gap between the reader and author may
not be able to be closed, and that the author‘s self-consciousness has much to do with
this.

Strategy Point:
Don’t spend excessive time trying to understand every point of a difficult passage.
Rely on topic sentences and keywords to help illuminate the structure of the
paragraphs.

Question 1:

1) Take a moment to review the point referred to in the question. Woolf argues that
readers can understand the writer‘s intent and personality through interpretation.
Look for an answer choice that would challenge this idea. (A) is a detail mentioned
in ¶3, therefore one may be inclined to say that this argument of Woolf‘s cannot
weaken her earlier point. But the third paragraph specifically states that Woolf
critiques her own theories and (A) is given as a prime example that weakens her
earlier point.
(B): Opposite. This would strengthen Woolf‘s idea that individual readers can use
their own experience to discover the author‘s original intent and personality.
(C): Out of Scope. Even if this is true, it would still presumably be possible for
individual writers to use their own experiences to figure out what the author
was getting at.
(D): Out of Scope. While it is true that Woolf thinks that interpretation can close
the gap between reader and writer, while (D) says that the writer has to
directly confirm interpretations for them to be valid. (D) is merely a claim
that contradicts Woolf and does not give any meaningful support; it is
therefore not as damning as (A).
(E): How qualified the readers are is out of scope.

Question 2:

2) Look for an answer choice that isn‘t mentioned in the passage or that directly
contradicts what the author says about Woolf‘s essays. (B) is a distortion of what
the author says: go back to ¶1 to review what the author does say when comparing
the essays to the fiction. The essays ―reveal a thematic and technical complexity
that rivals her novels.‖ If it rivals that of the novels, it‘s not necessarily exceeding,
(A): Opposite. This is the main focus of the author‘s argument.
(C): Opposite. This is an implication of ¶s 3 and 4. The author says that Woolf
believes ―the gap between reader and author may be eliminated‖ in ¶3 but in
¶4 says that Woolf‘s essays ―critique the very possibility of closing the gap
(D): Opposite. This is supported by the discussions of Turgenev, Austen, and
Shakespeare in ¶3.
(E): Opposite. This can be inferred from the passage.

Question 3:

3) Paraphrase the main point that Woolf is trying to make in the second paragraph:
readers can use their own personal experiences to understand the personality and
motivations of the writer. Looking for an assumption necessary to this argument
turns up (A), which simply restates the point that readers can figure out part of the
author‘s personality. If (A) isn‘t true, the argument falls apart: this is a sure sign of
a critical assumption.
(B): Opposite. Woolf is arguing that the reader‘s perspective can be used to
discover the perspective of the author; there‘s no discussion of compromise.
(C): Opposite. Woolf is arguing that the reader uses personal experiences, not
standards, to interpret the text.
(D): Opposite. If personal experiences are most necessary to understanding the
author, then it would seem that intuition is more important than critical
reasoning.
(E): ‗Must‘ is extreme language.

Best,
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“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back)
Re: Virginia Woolf made an original contribution to the form   [#permalink] 17 Dec 2018, 08:36
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