Aesthetics of Being: The Unfinished Memoirs of Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys

Abstract

This essay reads the unfinished memoirs of Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys through the lens of relational psychoanalysis, particularly that of Christopher Bollas. Building upon the latter's theorisation of a maternal aesthetic based on her handling of the infant, what Bollas terms the mother's "idiom of care", the essay traces both positive and negative registers of such an aesthetic. Both memoirs open with self-identified "first memories", and both go on to connect the act of writing with these first memories. Woolf's memoir foregrounds moments of containment in a uterine, preoedipal surround, "colour-and-sound" experiences shattered by the mother's sudden death: Woolf goes on to characterise her writing as a practice that allows her to rebuild the shattered world. Rhys, by contrast, connects her writing to experiences of disharmony, alienation, and estrangement, an aesthetic she traces back to her mother's insistence on a surface conformity, at odds with the daughter's inner turmoil.

How to Cite

Moran, P., (2010) “Aesthetics of Being: The Unfinished Memoirs of Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys”, Studies in the Maternal 2(1), p.1-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.100

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Patricia Moran

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