Virginia Woolf’s Maternal Narrative in Mrs Dalloway

Iraj Montashery


Virginia Woolf’s feminist/modernist project is to retrieve and inscribe in her writing the repressed, the unconscious, the feminine, or, in Kristevan terms, the semiotic, conceived as the imaginary plenitude symbolised by the maternal body. As a result of this, her narrative structure is informed by a hidden thread of desire for the absent mother which runs through her writing. I use the term subtext to address the inscribed desire for the maternal space within symbolic language, which is able to disrupt its hegemony. The symbolic elements, therefore, constitute the text proper of Woolf’s writing, while the semiotic is the subtext which surfaces and resurfaces frequently within the symbolic text. Desire for the lost mother unearths the repressed layers of the unconscious and gives them voice. In this way, the long repressed semiotic or maternal elements are given a chance, for the first time, to be transferred into text—not through the Law of the Father, but through the uncensored dictation of desire, which seeks the lost mother after the bond between the child and the mother is broken.

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