Some love of England
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I examine Woolf’s complicated relationship with England through the lens of linguistic,postcolonial, gender, and nation theory. I argue that Woolf regarded the nation as created by its subjects’ active participation in and upholding of its defining rituals, traditions, symbols, and institutions, as later nation theorists would argue. Throughout her writing career, Woolf evaluated the meaning of membership in the imagined community of England, and sought to locate a position for Englishwomen within a national culture that often excluded them. The seeming conflict between Woolf’s appraisal of her Englishness as a stigma and admission that some love of England still remains typifies the reasons that she frequently criticized what shesaw as an oppressive patriarchal discourse that has dominated English national culture and her response to this discourse in attempting to construct a more inclusive national culture. For example, in such novels as Orlando and Between the Acts, Woolf parodies writing styles associated with various eras of English history in order to demonstrate how literary texts are used to offer English readers models of national identity that are not only gendered but historically contingent, as well. By spotlighting the fictional nature of these models, Woolf looks hopefully to the mutability of English national identity. In other chapters, I examine Woolf’s responses to the two world wars, which led her to challenge more anxiously and to articulate her sense of Englishness in the volatile climate of the first half of the twentieth century. These wars constituted for her the most significant threats to England’s survival, causing her to criticize the patriotic discourses used to justify them and the oppressive, violent practices of England’s patriarchal culture that generate a nation prone to war. More broadly, I consider Woolf’s English national consciousness in a context of Modernism as a whole and suggest that national identity plays a crucial, although often overlooked or downplayed, role in the philosophies of Modernism more generally, a literary movement traditionally regarded as an "international" or even "supra-national" one that attempted to transcend national boundaries and allegiances. Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus may have wanted to "fly by those nets" of "nationality, language, [and] religion," but no writer can escape his or her nationality. He or she can, however, rewrite it, and thus contribute toa new discourse of nationalism.