Virginia Woolf was a writer concerned, above all,
with capturing in words the excitement, pain, beauty, and horror
她最擅用语言捕捉兴奋 痛苦 美丽和恐怖的瞬间
of what she termed, the Modern Age.
Born in 1882,
she was conscious of herself as a distinctively modernist writer
and odds with a raft of the staid and complacent assumptions
of nineteenth-century English literature.
She realized that
a new era, marked by extraordinary developments
一个以城市化 科技 战争 消费主义
in urbanism, technology, warfare, consumerism, and family life
would need to be captured by a different sort of writer.
Along with Joyce and Proust,
she was a relentlessly creative writer in search of new literary forms
that could do justice to the complexities of modern consciousness.
Her books and essays retain a power to convey
the thrill and drama of living in the 20th century.
Woolf was born in London.
Her father was a famous author and mountaineer,
and her mother, a well known model.
Her family hosted many of the most influential
and important members of Victorian Literary Society.
Woolf was largely cynical about these grand types,
accusing them of pomposity and narrow-mindedness.
Woolf and her sister weren’t even allowed to go to Cambridge like their brothers,
but had to steal an education from their father’s study.
After her mother died when she was only thirteen,
Woolf had the first of a series of mental breakdowns
that would plague her for the rest of her life;
partly caused, too, by the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her half-brother, George Duckworth.
Despite her illness, she became a journalist, and then a novelist,
尽管如此 她还是当了记者 后来又成了小说家
and the central figure in the Bloomsbury Group,
which included John Maynard Keynes,
E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey.
She married one of the members: the writer and journalist, Leonard Woolf.
she and Leonard bought a small hand printing press,
named it “The Hogarth Press,”
and published books from their dining room.
They printed Woolf’s radical novels and political essays
when no one else would
and they produced the first full English edition of Freud’s works.
In just four short years between World Wars I and II,
Woolf wrote four of her famous works:
“Mrs. Dalloway,” “To the Lighthouse,” “Orlando,”
and the essay, “A Room of One’s Own.”
In March 1941, feeling the onset of another bout of mental illness,
Woolf drowned herself in the River Ouse.
Her work has many vital things to teach us.
Woolf was one of the great observers of English literature.
Perhaps the finest short piece of prose she ever wrote
was the essay, “The Death of the Moth,” published in 1942.
It contains her observations as she sits in her study,
watching a humble moth trapped by a pane of glass.
Rarely have so many profound thoughts been eked out
from such an apparently mindless situation–
though for Woolf, there were no such things as mindless situations.
“One could not help watching him.
One was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him.
The possibilities of pleasure seemed, that morning, so enormous and so various,
that to have only a moth’s part in life–
and a day moth’s at that– appeared a hard fate…
and his zest in enjoying his meager opportunities
to the full, pathetic.
He flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment,
and after waiting there a second, flew across to the other.
What remained for him,
but to fly to a third corner and then to a fourth.
That was all he could do in spite of the width of the sky, the far off smooth of houses,
它能做的只有这些 尽管群山壮阔 天空浩瀚 炊烟辽远
and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steam out at sea.
Woolf noticed everything that you and I tend to walk past:
the sky, the pain in others’ eyes,
the gaze of children, the stoicism of wives,
the pleasures of department stores,
the interests of harbors and docks.
Emerson, one of her favorite writers,
may have been speaking generally,
but he captured everything that makes Woolf special when he remarked,
“In the work of a writer of genius,
we rediscover our own neglected thoughts.”
In another great essay, “On Being Ill,”
Woolf lamented how seldom writers stoop to describe illness-
伍尔夫哀叹 很少有作家会屈尊 去描述疾病
an oversight that seemed characteristic of a snobbery against the everyday in literature.
English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear,
has no words for the shiver and the headache.
The mere schoolgirl, when she falls in love,
has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her,
but let us suffer her trying to describe a pain in his head to a doctor
and language at once runs dry.
This would be her mission; Woolf tried throughout her life to make sure language would do a better job
at defining who we really are,
with all our vulnerabilities, confusions, and bodily sensations.
以及我们直面所有的脆弱 困惑 和身体感觉
Woolf raised her sensitivity to the highest art form.
She had the confidence and seriousness to use what happened to her-
the sensory details of her own life-
as the basis for the largest ideas.
2.ACCEPT THE EVERYDAY
Woolf was always profound, but never afraid of what others called “trivial.”
She was confident that the ambitions of her mind
were completely compatible with an interest in shopping, cakes, and hats-
subjects on which she wrote with almost unique eloquence and depth.
In another particularly good essay of hers called the “Oxford Street Tide,”
she celebrates the gaudy vulgarity of this huge London shopping street.
“The moralists point the finger of scorn at Oxford Street;
it reflects, they say, the levity, the ostentation,
他们说 牛津街反映了我们这个时代的轻率 浮夸
the haste, and the irresponsibility of our age.
Yet perhaps, they are as much out in their scorn as we should be
if we asked of the lily that it should be cast in bronze,
or of the daisy that it should have petals of imperishable enamel.
The charm of modern London is that
it isn’t built to last- it is built to pass.”
In an accompanying essay,
equally open to the un-prestigious side of modern life,
Woolf goes to visit the giant docks of London.
“A thousand ships with thousand cargoes are being unladen every week…
and not only is each package of this vast and varied merchandise picked up and set down accurately,
but each is weighed and opened, sampled and recorded, and again stitched up and laid in its place,
随后再称重 打开取样 记录 然后再打包放回原处
without haste or waste or hurry, or confusion,
by a very few men in shirt sleeves
工人们穿着衬衣 挽起衣袖 为了共同利益而合作无间
who, working with the utmost organization in the common interest,
他们沉着 冷静 有序 从容地工作着
are yet able to pause in their work
and say to the casual visitor,
‘Would you like to see what sort of thing we sometimes find in sacks of cinnamon?
Look at this snake!'”
3.BE A FEMINIST
Woolf was deeply aware that men and women fit themselves into rigid roles,
and as they do so, overlook their fuller personalities.
In her eyes, in order to grow, we need to do something gender bending-
在她看来 为了成长 我们需要做一些跨越性别的事情
we need to seek experiences
that blur what it means to be a “real man” or a “real woman.”
Woolf had a few lesbian affairs in her life,
and she wrote a magnificently bold queer text, “Orlando,”
a portrait of her lover, Vita,
described as a nobleman who becomes a woman.
She wrote, “It is fatal to be a man or woman, pure and simple.
One must be woman-manly, or man-womanly.”
In her anti-war track, “Three Guineas,” Woolf argued that
we will only ever end war
by rethinking the habit of pitting of sex against sex;
all this claiming of superiority and impudent inferiority
belonged to the private school stage of human existence
where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side,
and the utmost importance
to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the headmaster,
a highly ornamental pot.
Woolf wished desperately to raise the status of women in her society.
She recognized that the problem was largely down to money.
Women didn’t have freedom, especially freedom of the spirit,
because they didn’t control their own income.
“Women have always been poor,” she cried.
“Not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time,
women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves.
Women have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry.”
Her great feminist rallying cry, “A Room of One’s Own,”
culminated in a specific political demand:
in order to stand on the same intellectual footing as men,
women not only needed dignity,
but also equal rights to education,
an income of five hundred pounds a year,
and a room of one’s own.
Woolf was probably the best writer in the English language
for describing our minds without the jargon of clinical psychology.
The generation before hers, the Victorians, wrote novels focused on external details:
city scenes, marriages, wills.
城市场景 婚姻 遗嘱
Woolf envisaged a new form of expression that would focus instead,
on how it feels inside to know ourselves and other people.
Books like Woolf’s, which aren’t overly sarcastic,
aren’t caught up in adventure plots, or cradled in convention
are our contract.
She’s expecting us to turn down the outside volume, to try on her perspective,
and to spend energy with subtle sentences…
and in turn, she offers us the opportunity to notice the tremors we normally miss,
and to better appreciate moths, our own headaches,
and our fascinating, fluid sexualities.
If you like this video,
then I think you’ll really appreciate “Wisecrack,” another fine channel on YouTube
that also celebrates literature, philosophy, cinema, psychology, and more.
它也向观众讲述文学 哲学 电影 心理学等方面内容
Click here to visit their channel page,
and see how they’re introducing important topics and critical analysis
through the lens of comedy.
If you’re interested in smart, yet hilarious, breakdowns of classic literature,
be sure to watch their popular series,
They have over 80 titles in their library to choose from, including:
“Pride and Prejudice,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Lolita,”
“Dune,” “Crime and Punishment,” and many more.
I think you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.