The Phantom Table: Woolf, Fry, Russell and the Epistemology of Modernism

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Virginia Woolf identified the influence on her work of ‘the Cambridge Apostles’, the philosophical society which counted G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and much of male Bloomsbury among its members, as one more ‘capable of description’ than ‘the influence of my mother’. In this major study of Woolf’s relationship to Bloomsbury and the aesthetic and philosophical developments of her time, Ann Banfield subjects that influence to its first full treatment. The theory of knowledge Moore and Russell formulated, Banfield argues, profoundly affected Woolf’s conception of reality, as it did Roger Fry’s theory of Post-Impressionism, one source for Woolf’s transformations of philosophical principles into aesthetic ones. The Phantom Table is a magisterial account of Woolf’s engagement with this remarkable trinity of thinkers: Moore, Russell, Fry. It radically revises the epistemology of modernism, reconceiving the relation between realism and formalism to account for Woolf’s dual reality of sense impressions and logical forms.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ann Banfield has written a book of great size in every respect. Large in ambition, vast in research, commanding in its control of many difficult texts and many formidable arguments, it will become a major resource not only for Woolf scholarship, but for all those interested in Modernist studies. This book is a major achievement." Michael Levenson

"The range and depth of Banfield's knowledge is never in doubt; neither is her commitment to modernist thought." Albion

"Banfield's book is without question a stunning achievement, a massive, well-researched compendium of analytic philosophy, modernist aesthetics, and Woolf scholarship." Philosophy and Literature

"[The Phantom Table's] importance extends beyond its historical account of Woolf's aesthetics, for in tracing the dance of ideas among Woolf, Russell and Fry, Banfield offers a fresh persepctive on both the problem of the subject in twentieth-century thought and art and Bloomsbury's philosophical and creative solutions..." Women's Review of Books

"The Phantom Table deserves to be read, to be argued with, to be integrated into that mosaic of critical discussion that is the dynamic field of Woolf studies, and, more largely, of modernist studies." Woolf Studies Annual

"A poetic book....opens new directions in the consideration of Woolf as a serious philosophical novelist." Virginia Woolf Miscellany

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521034036
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 452
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations     viii
Preface     ix
List of abbreviations     xvii
Introduction: table talk     1
Subject and Object and the Nature of Reality
The geometry in the sensible world: Russell's analysis of matter     59
The world seen without a self: Woolf's analysis of matter     108
Solus ipse, alone in the universe     159
The dualism of death     213
Principia Aesthetica
Fry's granite and rainbow: post-impressionism and impressionism     245
How describe the world seen without a self?     294
The modern elegy     358
Notes     389
Bibliography     415
Index     427
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