Tag Archives: Gender Relations

Random Beings: Modernism, Categorization, and Virginia Woolf

2 Nov

I see the concept of “random” coinciding with the quote by D.H. Lawrence that “Individualism makes the mistake of considering the individual a fixed entity.” I see these two concepts as being related in such a way that an individual is an ever changing being that experiences things differently during each moment or event. In other words, they have random experiences and thoughts; they do not have a fixed perspective that is impervious to change. I do not see random thought as a negative description; it is, in my opinion, a mode of expression and experience from moment to moment; One moment being cheese sandwiches or the color of a pencil, the next moment having the possibility of an epiphany or the contemplation of a leaf.

Generalizing the random experiences of females and relegating that experience to only times of stress is, to me, an assumption that one person’s experience is the fixed experience of all who “fit” into that category, which in this case would be females. I would like to take it one step further and argue that not only are we random beings with the ability to create a whole new world of thought within any given second, but that this random existence applies to all of us, men and women. Now I am the one making a generalization, but I assert that the generalized randomness would allow for each experience to be unique; one person would think random thoughts when stressed precisely because they are a random being.

This assumption of fluidity and possibility extends to the writers as well; we would be correct in saying, for example, that Virginia Woolf is a Modernist writer, and we would also be correct in saying that she is a feminist writer. She exists simultaneously in both worlds, and possesses a random existence. She would exist as both or neither, a feminist or a modernist depending upon who is looking at her and through what lens.

It is my opinion that the assumption of a fixed entity reinforces the binary system that determines an either/or definition for every aspect of our existence. Random beings, as defined for this post, have the capability of defying the binary system in such a way that it is hard to define them as either this or that. Because a woman is a feminist, it does not follow that she is unhappy in her marriage, (as evident in Virginia’s suicide note to her husband in which she writes “I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.”). Because a woman is married, it does not necessarily follow then, that she is a heterosexual, as evident with Virginia’s life-long friendship and love affair with Vita Sackville-West. The possibility of existing as a both/and is also evident with the correspondences between Woolf and Arnold Bennett; Even though they vehemently criticized each other regarding the do’s and don’ts of literature, upon meeting each other, neither could honestly say that they disliked the other. In fact, they had a sort of mutual respect for one another; they existed as both adversaries and equals.

The description of one as a random being allows for the next moment in our lives to contain possibilities limited only by our imagination. It allows for writers to create new modes of expression, and it allows for everyone, as an existing individual, to experience the world as it really is; ever-changing and confusing. We are not either a critic or a creator, a this or a that; we are capable of being both, and we are confusing, complex beings.

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