The Discomfort of civilization: Destabilizing the Bildungsroman in Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out and Jacob's Room
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Throughout her authorship Virginia Woolf was fascinated by the relationship between the individual and society and with finding literary forms to express the changing conceptions of selfhood, of subject formation, and of interpersonal relations, while questioning established representations of character in fiction. All of these questions concerning the individual, the expression of identity, and the representation of character in modernist fiction are connected and intersect with in my project. My focus in what follows will be on how Woolf explores these questions specifically through her engagement with the Bildungsroman genre. Investigating how Virginia Woolf engages with the classical Bildungsroman in her two novels The Voyage Out (1915) and Jacob's Room (1922). I will argue that these novels at once draw upon and subvert elements of the genre as a way of exploring questions identity as well as the structures and contingencies of subject formation.