The Flight of the Mind: Virginia Woolf's Art and Manic-Depressive Illness

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In this major new book on Virginia Woolf, Caramagno contends psychobiography has much to gain from a closer engagement with science. Literary studies of Woolf's life have been written almost exclusively from a psychoanalytic perspective. They portray Woolf as a victim of the Freudian "family romance," reducing her art to a neurotic evasion of a traumatic childhood.

But current knowledge about manic-depressive illness—its genetic transmission, its biochemistry, and its effect on brain function—reveals a new relationship between Woolf's art and her illness. Caramagno demonstrates how Woolf used her illness intelligently and creatively in her theories of fiction, of mental functioning, and of self structure. Her novels dramatize her struggle to imagine and master psychic fragmentation. They helped her restore form and value to her own sense of self and lead her readers to an enriched appreciation of the complexity of human consciousness.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520072800
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/27/1992
  • Pages: 362
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas C. Caramagno teaches in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska. Kay Redfield Jamison is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 "I Owned to Great Egotism" : The Neurotic Model in Woolf Criticism 6
2 "Never Was Anyone So Tossed Up and Down by the Body As I Am": The Symptoms of Manic-Depressive Illness 33
3 "But What Is the Meaning of 'Explained' It? Countertransference and Modernism 75
4 "In Casting Accounts, Never Forget to Begin with the State of the Body": Genetics and the Stephen Family Line 97
5 "How Completely He Satisfied Her Is Proved by the Collapse": Emblematic Events in Family History 114
6 "How Immense Must Be the Force of Life": The Art of Autobiography and Woolf's Bipolar Theory of Being 134
7 "A Novel Devoted to Influenza": Reading without Resolution in The Voyage Out 156
8 "Does Anybody Know Mr. Flanders?" Bipolar Cognition and Syncretistic Vision in Jacob's Room 185
9 "The Sane and the Insane, Side by Side": The Object-Relations of Self-Management in Mrs. Dalloway 210
10 "It Is Finished": Ambivalence Resolved, Self Restored in To the Lighthouse 244
11 "I Do Not Know Altogether Who I Am": The Plurality of Intrasubjective Life in The Waves 270
Epilogue: Science and Subjectivity 296
Afterword, Kay Redfield Jamison 303
Appendix: Virginia Woolf's Mood Swing Chart (1895-1941) 307
Notes 313
Works Cited 335
Index 349
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