“There Are Still the Hours”. Time in Mrs Dalloway and The Hours. (Marlies de Vos)


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Mrs Dalloway is part of the obligatory reading material, which students of English must face in their first year, and so did I six years ago. Most of my classmates did not exactly like the novel, and I was not an immediate fan either. Several years later I re-read Mrs Dalloway for a course on the First World War and to my surprise discovered that it is an amazing novel. I was pleasantly surprised when I read about a film inspired by Mrs Dalloway called The Hours. I never made it to the cinema, so I bought the book instead.

During my fifth year at university I decided it was time to graduate. Desperately seeking a topic I remembered The Hours. A film that is adapted from a novel that is a rewrite of a Modernist text. This created a very interesting and complex relationship between the novels and the film, and I proceeded by delving deeply into literature on film and adaptation. My thesis would be about literature and adaptation and The Hours and Mrs Dalloway.

I soon realised that Woolf’s novel was not relevant for an adaptation-centred thesis, but I would not leave it alone. Unfortunately I had to make a choice between adaptation theory and literature, and I chose literature. I wrote my thesis about Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours and its relationship to Mrs Dalloway. Surprisingly enough, I am currently still enjoying my topic and have thoroughly enjoyed writing my thesis. Of course, I did not do this on my own. There are some people I would like to thank.

Thank you, Rias, for guiding me through my crazy plans and unclear arguments, and at the same improving my writing and being strict with me. Thank you, Roselinde, for fitting me into you ridiculously busy schedule. Thank you, Nanna, for enlightening me on adaptation and finding an angle for my thesis. Thank you, Ivo, for giving me a royal kick up the ass. Thank you, mum and dad, for making it possible for me to study all these years. Thank you, mum, for being my reader. Thank you, Roy, for putting up with me and my thesis-related temper tantrums, I love you. Thank you, my friends, for believing in me and telling me again and again and again that I can do this.





It is 1925, it is 1998 and it is 2002. It is 1923, it is 1949, and it is the end of the twentieth century. The logic of time does not seem to apply to this situation. Everything is happening all at once and it is all related to The Hours.

The Hours is a text that spans the twentieth century twice. The first time in its publication history: in 1925 Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway was published, which had The Hours as its working title. In 1998 Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours was published, and in 2002 a film inspired by Cunningham’s novel was released. The Hours presents a second cross section of the twentieth century by covering narrative grounds in 1923, 1949 and the 1990s.

It becomes clear that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours are complexly connected through time, or as Tory Young puts it in her reader’s guide to The Hours: “The relationship between The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway is impossible to simplify; Cunningham interweaves aspects of Woolf’s life, her novel, and her theories” (38).

Virginia Woolf wrote Mrs Dalloway about the perambulations of a middle-aged woman on a sunny June day in London, and it became one of the main Modernist classics. One of the most prominent themes in Mrs Dalloway is time and the distinction between two types of time. The clock measures time, but on the other hand time is represented by the duration of experiences as the human consciousness registers them. Virginia Woolf gives an explanation in Orlando:

An hour, once it lodges in the queer elements of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented by the timepiece of the mind by one second. (qtd. in Hasler 147)

The time told by the timepiece of the mind is called psychological time, a term taken from the philosopher Henri Bergson.

Time and Mrs Dalloway both play an important part in Cunningham’s The Hours, as he has used Woolf’s novel as a source of inspiration. Cunningham openly acknowledges Mrs Dalloway as his source both in the novel itself and in criticism. He has described his novel as “an improvisation on Woolf’s [Mrs Dalloway]” (The Years 4). With The Hours, Cunningham takes a difficult Modernist classic and turns into a popular novel that is suitable for adaptation into mainstream Hollywood cinema. Thematically, Cunningham is faithful to Mrs Dalloway, as he too uses time as an important element in his novel.

He has adopted several of Woolf’s techniques and uses Mrs Dalloway as an inspiration in order to represent psychological time and the sense of connectedness that is typical of Woolf’s novel. Nevertheless, The Hours also moves away from Mrs Dalloway. The Hours is a re-telling of Mrs Dalloway, but it is also an improvisation, as Cunningham calls it. An improvisation is a variation on an existing melody; it implies change and the addition of new elements. As Mary Joe Hughes puts it in her article on The Hours:

Although The Hours contains a similar cast of characters to those of Mrs. Dalloway and repeats the themes of love and death and time, Michael Cunningham does not simply ape the structure of Mrs. Dalloway and transpose it to New York in the late twentieth century. (350)

This thesis attempts to uncover what Michael Cunningham has done differently. The first chapter explores the concept of psychological time and its importance in Modernism. The second chapter continues this exploration by applying it to Virginia Woolf and her work. It also investigates the techniques Woolf uses in Mrs Dalloway and how these techniques relate to psychological time. The final chapter applies the techniques found in Mrs Dalloway to Cunningham’s novel in an attempt to illustrate similarities and differences between The Hours and Mrs Dalloway.



The Concept of Psychological Time


 Time on the Mind


Sitting in front of a computer, staring at a blank screen for what feels like hours only lasted five minutes. A three-week holiday seemed to pass in a couple of days. It does not always matter what time it is according to the clock. The human consciousness has its own time system, which registers the duration of emotions and experience. It does not rely on segmentation of time into minutes and hours. The time system of the mind is subjective and personal, whereas the clock represents time that is objective and public.

Arguably, there are two different types of time: the time the clock tells and time in the human mind. These two types of time have distinct characteristics, which clearly separate one from the other. Clock time governs the relentless progress of life, ordering events in a chronological, linear sequence according to when they happened in time. It is what history is made of. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and centuries are all indicators of clock time.

The other type of time is the temporal experience in the human mind: it is flexible; it is constantly in flux and can be compressed or extended. A period that is compressed in the mind seems to pass very quickly in comparison to clock time: an event took more clock time than the human mind perceived. When time is extended, the actual time span of an event was much shorter that experienced. Time on the mind is also referred to as psychological time by thinkers such as the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Questions such as why the human consciousness is able to create an individual time-system and whether it can be influenced by external factors remain beyond the scope of this discussion. It is interesting, however, to discover what influence of psychological time has had on Modernist and contemporary literature and how it is represented by selected authors from those periods.



A Brief History


Clearly, the timepiece of the mind has always existed. Time is an important part of the human consciousness. The Roman philosopher Plotinus was the first to name the phenomenon. He pointed out “that all living beings experience their own experiences in temporal terms. [He] was the first to internalize the question of time” (Sherover 10). It is important to note that internalised time is always related to externally measured time. One can exist only in comparison to the other, because internalised time can only be expressed in terms of clock time.

Timekeeping has always played an important role in human society, and its techniques have undergone many changes throughout the centuries. Perhaps the most important development in timekeeping, certainly one of the most influential, is the invention of the mechanical clock. The invention of the clock did of course not happen overnight and was subject to many problems, but the effect it has had on Western society is immense. Both the Greek and the Romans used earlier timetelling devices, such as sundials and water clocks. Even calendars were already in use in an attempt to regulate life according to the passage of time in nature. Not one of these devices was as successful as the mechanical clock. The impact of the mechanical clock on history is overwhelming. Clocks could organise and regulate communities. Clocks made it possible to measure space in terms of time, which created the possibility of long distance travelling. Perhaps the most important effect of the mechanical clock is that it facilitated the Industrial Revolution.[1]

The Industrial Revolution brought about considerable change, and the continuous process of change is still visible in society today. In the early twentieth century, the ongoing industrial progress was marked by the introduction of Taylorismin 1911.[2] The ideas of Mr Taylor introduced a new view of industrialisation, which involved paying labourers hourly wages and introducing the assembly line in factories. As a result the production rate in factories went up, but the effect of Taylorism that was most relevant for society and art was the fact that it commodified time. Time became worth money, because labourers were paid by the hour. They worked a set number of hours a day in shifts and the speed of their work was dominated by the speed of the machines (Adriaans 13). Society became clock-governed. The effect of the clock-governed society is reflected in the work of early twentieth-century artists. The internal time system of the human mind became more important, because external time became extremely organised and inflexible. The emphasis of art shifted from the external to the internal, and displayed a strong tendency toward the exploration of personal experience and the workings of time in the human consciousness.



Psychological Time in Theory


Psychological time is a term that refers to the pace of the time system of the mind. It is a concept that arose out of the tendency of twentieth-century psychology and philosophy to explore the human consciousness. The modern interest in the human mind resulted in new methods of analysing the consciousness. New methods, such as psychoanalysis (developed by Sigmund Freud in the 1890s), were extremely popular in the first decades of the twentieth century.[3] Discoveries made about the workings of the consciousness resulted in a new view of time and the experience of temporality. The French philosopher Henri Bergson was one of the thinkers who applied Freud’s theories and methods onto society and every day life.

Bergson thought reality was characterised by the different experience of time in the mind (Childs 49). Bergson used the term ‘psychological time’ to refer to this experience of time. Psychological time, according to Bergson, is not a different type of time, but a different manner of perceiving time. Psychological time is not subjected to chronology or linearity. It is concerned with memory, expectation, duration, extension, compression, and association; it moves in flux and is highly subjective. These characteristics make it difficult to pin down and even more difficult to represent in art and literature.

In his book Novels into Film, George Bluestone discusses chronological and psychological time and their representation in both novels and films. He uses the distinction created by Henri Bergson to distinguish between two types of time in the narrative of a novel or a film. Chronological time (or clock time) consists of the duration of the reading, the amount of time the narrator takes to relate the story and the chronological span of the narrative events. Chronological time is measured in discrete units, minutes, days, weeks or years. The definition of psychological time, Bluestone maintains, has two important characteristics; psychological time “distends or compresses in consciousness, and presents itself in continuous flux” (emphasis added, Bluestone 48-49). Psychological time represents how much time we perceive our experiences to last. A minute can be ‘distended’ to last a sensory hour, while an hour can be ‘compressed’ into a minute in our mind. Secondly, psychological time presents itself in a continuous flux. It is in constant movement, and thus it is immeasurable, according to Bluestone. The immeasurability of the flux makes time an elusive phenomenon in psychology and philosophy, and it also creates a challenge for literature. Modernists were fascinated by the problematic representation of psychological time and the immeasurable quality of the flux.

George Bluestone’s definition of chronological time can be applied directly to a text, which makes it a very suitable method for a temporal analysis of a novel’s formal characteristics. A chronological analysis determines how long a reader takes to read a book, how much time the narrator needs to relate a story and in what time span a story would have unfolded in reality. Psychological time is not as clearly illustrated. Bluestone’s main conclusion is that neither novels nor films are capable of rendering the flux of psychological time. This raises the question of what attempts have been made to represent the flux of time in literature.

Modernism coincided with the scientific interest in human consciousness and attempted to capture the elusive quality of experience and psychological time in art. John Lye characterises Modernist literature as a movement that “is marked by a break with the sequential, developmental, cause-and-effect presentation of the 'reality' of realist fiction, toward a presentation of experience as layered, allusive [and] discontinuous” (3). Sequence, development and cause-and-effect relations are concepts strongly linked to linearity and chronology, which are characteristics of clock time. John Lye suggests that Modernism turned away from linearity and wanted to represent the ‘layered, allusive and discontinuous’ nature of experience. This desire reflects the Modernist attempts to put into words human experience, including the elusive qualities of psychological time.



Modernism and Psychological Time[4]


Twentieth century literary Modernism was very much interested in contemporary psychological and philosophical tendencies. Henri Bergson and his theories were extremely popular amongst Modernists and many were inspired by his theories on psychological time and borrowed his ideas. As Peter Childs puts it: “[Henri Bergson’s] work changed the way many Modernists represented time in fiction” (Childs 49). His ideas on psychological time were hugely influential. Modernists were interested in the time individuals experienced and how this experience of time can differ from individual to individual. Modernism wanted to investigate the non-linear qualities psychological time, not in the chronology of events that occur.

David Lodge mentions about the early twentieth century:

“It wasn’t necessary for writers to have actually read the psychoanalytical writings of Freud and his followers to be influenced by him. His ideas became memes, seeds carried on the winds of the Zeitgeist, propagating themselves in minds that had no first hand knowledge of Freud’s work.” (59)

What David Lodge illustrates here is that the interest in the unconscious and human experience was a trend in the twentieth century and all disciplines of art and science reflected this, without necessarily a particular background in psychoanalysis. Modernism was inspired by the new ideas on human consciousness, and its focus turned to the “(re)presentation of inner (psychological) reality, including the 'flow' of experience, through devices such as stream of consciousness” (Lye 7).

As a result of turning towards the internal, the concept of psychological time became more important. Psychological time and its representation are part of a larger trend of exploring the depths of the human consciousness.



The Manifestations of Psychological Time in Modernism


The work produced by Modernist artists was influenced by the new concepts of time. The introduction to Modernism in The Norton Anthology deals with the problematic notion of time and explains how Modernists viewed it:

Time was not a series of chronological moments to be presented by the novelist in sequence with an occasional deliberate retrospect (“this reminded him of,” “she recalled that”), but a continuous flow in the consciousness of the individual, with the ‘already’ continuously merging into the ‘not yet’ and retrospect merging with anticipation. (Abrams 2:1688)

The image of time as a continuous flow creates a perpetual present in which past, present and future function together to create a kaleidoscopic vision of time. The continuous influence of the past on the present and the coexistence of past, present and future in the mind are features of psychological time.

 Modernism is interested in both the notion of the flux of time and the possibility of multiple levels of consciousness. This results in an exploration of the consciousness through stream-of-consciousness technique. Stream of consciousness combines the notion of flow and the interest in the deeper layers of the human consciousness. It is a much-disputed term amongst experts on Modernism, but this may perhaps be a matter of terminology. William James supposedly coined the term in his 1890 Principles of Psychology to indicate the flow of inner experience (Childs 52). Later the term was applied to literature, but it is likely that James was referring to what Bergson has called the flux of time. Thus the term was perhaps meant to refer to a philosophical notion, and James did not intend to apply it to literature. The debates surrounding stream of consciousness as a literary technique are focussed on two main points: which writers use

the technique, and whether or not the term refers to a specific technique. James Naremore discusses this dispute at length in his book World Without a Self and concludes that most critics agree on two basic points:

First, that stream of consciousness, whether it is a technique or a subject matter, is especially concerned with a private and essentially disorganized part of the mind; second, that stream-of-consciousness fiction always focuses on the contents of a character’s mind at a given point in space and time, in order to suggest a record of thought as it occurs, as it rises out of a circumstantial context. (70)

Arguably stream of consciousness consists of a range of different techniques, which can be used separately or in combination.[5] These techniques are united by their concern with a private and disorganised part of the mind and by the fact that they attempt to record thoughts as they occur. Stream of consciousness is a method Modernist authors use in an attempt to deal with psychological time, which is an important aspects of the private part of the mind.

 One of the techniques applied in literature in order to convey stream of consciousness is free indirect speech. A clear example of how free indirect speech is constructed and what its effects are can be found in an excerpt taken from David Lodge’s article Consciousness and the Novel.

“Is that the clock striking twelve?” Cinderella exclaimed. “Dear me, I shall be late.” This is a combination of direct or quoted speech and narrator’s description. “Cinderella enquired if the clock was striking twelve and expressed a fear that she would be late” is reported or indirect speech, in which the same information is conveyed but the individuality of the character’s voice is suppressed by the narrator’s. “Was that the clock striking twelve? She would be late” is free indirect speech. Cinderella’s concern is now a silent, private thought, expressed in her own words, to which we are given access without overt mediation of a narrator. … The effect is to locate the narrative in Cinderella’s consciousness. (37)

Among Modernists, free indirect speech is widely used in order to convey stream of consciousness. Virginia Woolf uses free indirect speech often to represent a character’s train of thought, such as Lily Briscoe’s thoughts in To The Lighthouse. “For at any rate, she said to herself, catching sight of the salt cellar on the pattern, she need not marry, thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. She was saved from that illusion. She would move the tree rather more to the middle” (154). Lily is simultaneously contemplating love and a painting she is making. Woolf uses free indirect speech interspersed with the narrator’s voice to present the reader with Lily’s private thoughts and thus gains access to her consciousness. Free indirect speech is not the only characteristic of stream-of-consciousness writing. Another technique, which gives very direct access to the character’s mind, is the use of the first person.

As the example from To The Lighthouse demonstrates, stream of consciousness can be fragmented or confusing. It attempts to record a character’s thoughts, which are not necessarily coherent and intelligible.

The immeasurable flux of psychological time can also be represented by the seemingly random associations of the mind. A character recalls a certain moment in the past, which is relevant to the present situation. The character’s memory is represented in the narrative when the author feels the recollection to be most relevant to the present moment. The function of recollection is not merely to reflect on the past. Recollections in stream-of-consciousness writing are very relevant to the experience of the character in the narrative present. Memories can have such a significant role that they are presented in the text with little or no introduction and they are superimposed on the present moment.[6]

Association is a term taken from psychoanalysis, where it is called ‘free association’. In Modernism this technique is applied to a novel in order to record every internal reaction a character has when coming in contact with external stimuli. The effect can be confusing at times, because the immeasurability (or fragmentation) of the consciousness is explicitly represented by this technique. For readers it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is happening in actual time and what is happening in psychological time. In the following fragment taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses the readers enters the mind of Mr Leopold Bloom who is attending a funeral.

Mr Bloom stood far back, his hat in his hand, counting the bared heads. Twelve. I’m thirteen. No. The chap in the macintosh is thirteen. Death’s number. Where the deuce did he pop out of? He wasn’t in the chapel, that I’ll swear. Silly superstition that about thirteen. Nice soft tweed Ned Lambert has in that suit. Tinge of purple. I had one like that when we lived in Lombard street west. Dressy fellow he was once. Used to change three suits in the day. Must get that grey suit of mine turned by Mesias. Hello. It’s dyed. His wife I forgot he’s not married or his landlady ought to have picked out those threads for him. (90)

This is an example of interior monologue, which is a very direct form of stream of consciousness compared to the earlier example from Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. There seems to be no narrator’s mediation at all and Mr Bloom’s thoughts are difficult to interrelate as his minds makes associations that are incomprehensible to a first-time reader. Mr Bloom observes the people at the funeral service “Twelve. I’m thirteen. No. The chap in the macintosh is thirteen,” which he associates with death. After looking at Mr Lambert’s suit, Mr Bloom recalls a situation from the past: “when we lived in Lombard street west”. “Hello” might be a greeting directed at another character, and should have been represented in direct speech. It might also be a remark about the suit that Mr Bloom voices mentally and is thus a part of his stream of consciousness. The sentences Joyce uses in this passage are disorganised fragments, in order to present stream of consciousness in its most extreme form. Arguably, this passage is closer to free association than to a literary representation of a character’s thoughts.

Another common feature of Modernist texts in an attempt to represent the multiplicity of the consciousness and psychological time is fragmentation of the narrative. Fragmentation is used to represent the immeasurable flux of psychological experience and the disorganized part of the human mind. As the definition of stream of consciousness given by the sixth edition of The Columbia Encyclopedia explains:

[Stream of consciousness is] a technique that records the multifarious thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to logical argument or narrative sequence. The writer attempts by the stream of consciousness to reflect all the forces, external and internal, influencing the psychology of a character at a single moment.

Stream of consciousness intends to represent multiplicity within the character’s mind and the multiple ‘forces’ or impressions that he or she receives from her surroundings. The result of this multiplicity is chaos. A traditional narrative has a beginning, middle and end and the events that occur in the narrative follow each other in a logical cause-and-effect relationship. Many Modernist texts are not concerned with ‘time as a series of chronological moments to be presented in sequence’ as the introduction to Modernism in The Norton Anthology quoted earlier explained. It is common for Modernist texts to begin in medias res; the novel opens in the middle of an action or an event instead of at the beginning of the story. As a result the reader is disoriented. Fragmentation does not only occur on the level of the narrative, but also on the level of language, as the example from Ulysses already demonstrated. Modernism acknowledged that language is not capable of representing the flux of time and the workings of the human consciousness, because language is linear. Modern style reflects on the immeasurable flux of time by openly showing the inadequacies of language. As T.S. Eliot put it in his essay The Metaphysical Poet:

Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning. (qtd. in Abrams 2137)

Eliot had a very different approach to ‘dislocating language’ than Joyce and Woolf had, but the underlying motivation is the same: to create a language that will allow the author to express the multiplicity of Modernism, of which psychological time is an aspect.

 Sue Asbee claims that, besides creating a language to express the ‘great variety and complexity’, Modernism also “showed a desire to find a pattern beneath the surface of a chaotic and fragmentary reality” (29). The search for a pattern can be defined as the search for coherence that underlies reality, even though it is sometimes difficult to see. Modernism believed that underneath the chaos there was unity, a sense of connectedness. In her work Virginia Woolf attempted to create unity. Psychological time is a concept subjected to chaos as well. It is fragmented, it is in constant flux, memories can be involuntary and the timepiece of the mind is far from accurate. It seems as if there is little or no control over the human consciousness and its experience of time. Psychological time reflects the chaotic and fragmentary reality and Virginia Woolf, and other Modernists, attempt to make it whole again, to create a sense of unity. In Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses different techniques that create coherence and explores these techniques at great lengths.



Psychological Time and Mrs Dalloway


Woolf and Psychological Time


Time is a recurring theme in Virginia Woolf’s work. According to Jörg Hasler, “a mere glance at [her] bibliography reveals her deep and constant preoccupation with the phenomenon of time” (145). Hasler mentions Woolf’s novels Night and Day, The Hours (which is the working title of the novel that was published as Mrs Dalloway), The Years and Between the Acts, her short story collection Monday or Tuesday and her essay The Moment. Interestingly, her only autobiographical work, posthumously published in 1976, is called Moments of Being. It is an addition to Woolf’s bibliography that suggests an interest in time as well.

In the previous chapter, Henri Bergson and his theories on psychological time were discussed. His influence, and that of his contemporaries on Modernist art was enormous. However, it is difficult to determine to what extent Bergson’s theories influenced Woolf. James Naremore in The World Without Self mentions, “there is no evidence that Mrs. Woolf ever actually read Bergson” (21). Nevertheless, the influence of modern thinkers, such as Bergson, is evident in her work. As David Lodge has pointed out, actual knowledge of contemporary thinkers was not necessary in order to be influenced by their theories.

In her biographical novel Orlando, published in 1928, Virginia Woolf voices her fascination with the contrast between clock time and psychological time:

The time of man works with strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer elements of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented by the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation. (qtd. in Hasler 147)

This passage from Orlando shows that Woolf was interested in the phenomenon of psychological time, or time in the mind as she calls it. She demonstrates here that a discrepancy in time arises when the duration of psychological time is viewed in comparison to the clock, and clearly states that this needs to be explored.

Woolf’s Orlando shows a distinct interest in psychological time. Even though Mrs Dalloway was published in 1925, three years previous to Orlando, it also showed a particular interest in psychological time. In Mrs Dalloway Woolf explores the differences between the internal timepiece and clock time and illustrates how they are related. In a 1948 article William York Tindall presents the presence of two types of time as an obvious fact of the novel. “[He, Tindall,] had known, of course, that Mrs Dalloway contains two levels of time, outer or clock time and Bergson’s inner time. As Big Ben’s leaden strokes fix outer time, inner time or the stream of consciousness, indifferent to the clock, expands or contracts according to the intensity of experience” (66).

Woolf contrasts psychological time and clock time. Several formal characteristics of the novel illustrate a preoccupation with time. First of all, the working title of the novel was The Hours, which suggests an interest in the demarcations of time. Secondly the narrated time of Mrs Dalloway is a single day. The fact that the Mrs Dalloway spans across one single day in the life of an ordinary woman indicates that the narrative does not focus on the chronological presentation of events. Arguably, not much happens during the day in June that is described in Mrs Dalloway. The focus of the novel is on the consciousness of the characters. Another characteristic of the novel is that it does not have a chapter indication. It is presented as one large chapter entitled Mrs Dalloway. Although the novel does not have chapters, the narrative is divided into units as Big Ben strikes the hours. Clock time divides the narrative into pieces. The lack of a chapter division in the novel also creates a continuous flow of psychological time.

 Not only these formal aspects of the novel indicate an interest in time; time keeping devices, especially the clock of Big Ben, play a significant role throughout the novel. Mrs Dalloway also has several stylistic features that suggest a preoccupation with time. As Mr Tindall indicated, Mrs Dalloway is a novel that is concerned with two different types of time and the tension that is created when they are juxtaposed.



Mrs Dalloway – Super Connected


In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf argues that “fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible” (2). The comparison of fiction to a spider’s web does not only imply the fragility of fiction, but also its complexity. Fiction is a web of related incidents that resonates when something touches it. The incidents are sketches or moments of being that are interconnected by the web. When the web is touched it is felt in the entire construction. It represents how moments are connected. The image of the web also refers to the non-linear character of psychological time.

The spider’s web can also be applied to Woolf’s fictional work. With her fiction she aimed at finding unity through interconnecting events and characters. Woolf used several techniques that expressed her desire to “find a pattern beneath the surface of a chaotic and fragmentary reality”, as Sue Asbee put it so eloquently (29). Woolf carefully constructs a web-like structure for Mrs Dalloway. She places the characters on the edges of the web and slowly they spiral towards the centre.

The characters in Mrs Dalloway are introduced in the web when Clarissa Dalloway thinks of them. The first character the reader is acquainted with in this way is Peter Walsh: “Standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, ‘Musing among the vegetables’ – was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace – Peter Walsh”[7] (MD 3). The reader is not further introduced to Peter Walsh in this section. Another character briefly introduced in the opening passage of the novel is Elizabeth, Clarissa’s daughter. Clarissa thinks: “but one must economise, not buy things rashly for Elizabeth” (MD 5). No further reference is made to whom Elizabeth is or what role she will play in the novel. Clarissa also refers to Richard, Sylvia, Fred and Sally Seton in the opening pages, but it is not disclosed until later who these people are and what part they play in Clarissa’s life. As the novel progresses the reader learns more about the characters and several characters interact. Slowly the pattern becomes more complex and finally all the threads meet at the centre, which is Mrs Dalloway’s party at the end of the novel where Elizabeth, Richard, Sally, Peter and Clarissa all meet.

Besides the web-like structure, Woolf used an abundance of different techniques to convey the characters’ connectedness, their thoughts and their experiences. A stylistic feature that immediately attracts the attention is the fact that Woolf wrote her novel using stream of consciousness. Another device present in Mrs Dalloway is what Woolf herself referred to as tunnelling. Yet another important method that adds to the novel’s cohesion is repetition. Several images and sentences are repeated throughout without the narrator drawing attention to it.[8]



The Liquid Mind


One of the techniques Woolf and other Modernist authors use to explore psychological time is stream of consciousness. Woolf, Joyce and Proust are often mentioned together as the main representatives of Modernist authors who use stream of consciousness as a technique in their work. Stream of consciousness is a term that covers a broad range of different techniques. Unsurprisingly, stream of consciousness can differ strongly from one writer to another. Woolf’s ideas on stream of consciousness and her use of it are very different from for example Joyce’s practice, as has been discussed in the previous chapter. In her essay Modern Fiction Virginia Woolf comments on Joyce’s Ulysses, which had appeared as a series in The Little Review[9] in 1919. Ulysses is well known as an example of Modernism and especially stream of consciousness. Woolf was not convinced by Joyce’s use of stream of consciousness:

[Ulysses] fails because of the comparative poverty of the writer’s mind, we might say simply and have done with it. But it is possible to press a little further and wonder whether we may not refer our sense of being in a bright yet narrow room, confined and shut in, rather than enlarged and set free, to some limitation imposed by the method as well as by the mind. (Modern Fiction 6)

Woolf believes that Joyce’s work is ‘confined and shut in’, because the stream of consciousness of Joyce’s novel is focused on one character at a time. In Ulysses the reader is granted access to the mind of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus or Molly Bloom, but the stream of consciousness of one character does not relate to that of another character.

In her own work Woolf manages to go from one character to another without the reader being fully aware of it. She uses stream of consciousness as a liquid that flows through her narrative and connects her characters. The stream of consciousness Woolf presents is a multiplicity of several characters, and at the same time it unites all the individuals into a stream of life or an ocean of consciousness. All her characters are connected through their individual thoughts.

The three main characteristics of Woolf’s particular style of stream of consciousness are narrator mediation, a unified style and switch of consciousness. Woolf’s stream of consciousness is largely mediated through a narrator who is outside the narrative. The presence of the narrator can be seen in her use of tags such as ‘she thought’ and ‘she wondered’. Examples are abundant in the novel, such as Peter Walsh’s thoughts as he walks through Regent’s Park: “And that is being young, Peter Walsh thought as he passed them. To be having an awful scene – the poor girl looked absolutely desperate – in the middle of the morning. But what was it about, he wondered” (MD 77). Narrator mediation is present in the stream of consciousness of every character. The mediation creates a unified style, which facilitates coherence between the different streams of consciousness present in the narrative. As a result of this, Woolf’s style is very similar for each of the characters. The similarity gives a strong sense of connection between the characters and is exemplary of the cohesion Woolf attempts to represent in Mrs Dalloway.

The unified style of the stream of consciousness is similar from character to character, which creates the possibility of moving from one character’s consciousness to another without attracting attention to the transition. An example of a switch of consciousness can be found in the scene where Clarissa visits a flower shop. During the scene the stream of consciousness briefly switches from Clarissa to Miss Pym, the salesperson:

Ah yes – so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness. (MD 14)

The largest part of this excerpt consists of Clarissa’s represented thought. In the sentence “very kind, but she looked older, this year,” the focus of the stream of consciousness briefly switches to Miss Pym and switches back to Clarissa at “turning her head from side to side” (MD 14). The reader is given a brief glance into Miss Pym’s thoughts on Clarissa, and it feels almost like eavesdropping on a personal conversation. Shifts similar to this one occur many times in the novel. This results in a sense of coherence and the stream of consciousness turns into a multiplicity, perhaps even a stream of life, as the consciousness of several characters are merged.



The Caves of the Mind


Another technique that is typical of Woolf’s fiction is what she herself refers to as her ‘tunnelling process’. In her diary entry of August 30th 1923, Woolf writes that she has made a discovery: “How I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters: I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect and each comes to daylight at the present moment” (Writer’s Diary 60). Later that year she refers to her discovery as her “tunnelling process, by which [she] tells the past by instalments, as [she] has need of it” (61). Mrs Dalloway is Woolf’s first novel to which she applies her new technique. Woolf digs into the past of her characters and lets the tunnels she has created connect at specific moments in the narrative through for example imagery or echoing of thoughts.

Virginia Woolf’s tunnelling technique enables her to represent the multiplicity of the human mind and to forge past and present as well as psychological time and clock time. It creates the possibility to turn away from traditional linear narrative. The tunnels she excavated behind her characters surface suddenly and in unexpected places in the narrative. It “[gives] the impression of simultaneous connections between the inner and the outer world, the past and the present, speech and silence: a form patterned like waves in a pond rather that a railway line” (Lee 93). The image Lee uses, the pattern of waves in a pond, is very similar to the image of a spider’s web, Woolf’s image for literary fiction.

In an article on understanding Mrs Dalloway, Anna Benjamin argues that in Mrs Dalloway “the events are related as they apply to the present” (Benjamin 215). Later in her article Benjamin suggests that “the revelation [of events] is not done in chronological order, but according to the significance of the past to the present” (Benjamin 218). The key concept here is that ‘events’ surface in the story when they are relevant. The surfacing of events takes place through recollections. The characters in Mrs Dalloway are almost involuntary triggered into remembering events from the past by stimuli they receive in the present.

Memories play an important part in Woolf’s tunnelling technique. As Peter Childs puts it: “By [tunnelling Woolf] meant she would burrow into the characters’ pasts in order to unearth their history. Her characters are then revealed to the reader as split beings that are living in the past and present. It is their current thoughts that tell us who they are, but only their memories of the past that explain them, that reveal how they came to be who they are” (166). Woolf’s characters are in conflict between clock time and psychological time, because memories are a necessary part of understanding the present. In her essay Street Haunting: A London Adventure, Woolf addresses the issue of recollection and the temporal discrepancies it causes:

But what could be more absurd? It is, in fact, on the stroke of six; it is a winter’s evening; we are walking to the Strand to buy a pencil. How, then, are we also on a balcony, wearing pearls in June? What could be more absurd? Yet it is nature’s folly, not ours. When she set about her chief masterpiece, the making of man, she should have thought of one thing only. Instead, turning her head, looking over her shoulder, into each one of us she let creep instincts and desires which are utterly at variance with his main being, so that we are streaked, variegated, all of a mixture; the colours have run. Is the true self this which stands on the pavement in January, or that which bends over the balcony in June? (11)

Apparently the character walking down the Strand in this excerpt encounters something that makes her remember a moment in June. She is walking down the Strand and she is also on a balcony in June. Woolf then wonders which of the two images of the character is the true self, the image of the past or the image of the present. The essay continues, and poses the following question: “[Is] the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?” (11). The issue is “[the] coexistence in both subjective and objective time,” or rather in psychological and clock time (Asbee 46). Sue Asbee continues by describing this coexistence as a character being aware with one part of the mind of the present moment while Big Ben strikes, whereas the other part of the mind has gone back in time and superimposes itself on the present. Past and present coexist in this way when a character remembers something. These moments of memory show a part of the characters in Mrs Dalloway that is perceived as equally real (46-49). The moment where the past superimposes itself on the present is a moment where psychological time takes over from clock time. The distinction between past and present becomes unclear. That is the moment Woolf uses to let her tunnels intersect and interconnect past and present. As Hermione Lee describes what happens to Clarissa on her walk through London:

She perceives, thinks, remembers and generalizes, and in doing so she suffuses her present experience with the feelings and experiences of thirty years ago. What she remembers becomes a part of what she sees now, and these in turn contribute to what she thinks; her attitude to ‘life: London: this moment in June. (98)

In Mrs Dalloway, these moments of interconnectedness happen to Clarissa when she recalls an event at Bourton, as she does in the opening scene of the novel. Clarissa opens the door to go out and buy flowers and she is suddenly overwhelmed by a memory of Bourton, triggered by a “squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now” (MD 3). Clarissa feels as she did that morning at Bourton, thirty years ago; her past self superimposes itself on her present self and they are briefly united in the person Clarissa is at that present moment.

Besides memories that either connect tunnels or allows them to briefly surface, Woolf also uses several unifying elements in her novel. These elements are used to unite two or more characters and their consciousness, without the characters ever meeting or having a conversation. The characters and their tunnels are connected through their shared experience.

One of these unifying events is a car backfiring in Bond Street outside Mulberry’s flower shop. The backfiring car functions as a device to switch from Clarissa Dalloway to Septimus Smith, a war veteran suffering from shellshock. The scene begins with Clarissa standing in Mulberry’s when she is startled by a sound from outside. “- oh! a pistol shot in the street outside!” (MD 14). The motorcar that has backfired has stopped in front of Mulberry’s. The reader then encounters Septimus Smith, who is standing still on the pavement of Bond Street:

The violent explosion which made Mrs. Dalloway jump and Miss Pym go to the window and apologise came from a motor car which had drawn to the side of the pavement precisely opposite Mulberry’s shop window. Passers-by who, of course, stopped and stared, had just time to see a face of the very greatest importance against the dove-grey upholstery… Septimus Warren Smith … found himself unable to pass. (MD 14-15)

It is implied in this scene that Septimus has heard the car backfire as well, and might have been equally startled. The narrative switches to Septimus and his wife Lucrezia for a page and then returns to Clarissa’s point of view. Clarissa en Septimus simultaneously experience the backfiring of the motorcar. Woolf represents the simultaneous experience by alternating between the perceptions of the different characters involved in the event and in doing so briefly connects the lives of the characters.



Hall of Mirrors


Repetition is another device Woolf uses in Mrs Dalloway in order to strengthen the connections between her characters. Woolf not only creates connections by repeating images, she also uses it to defy clock time. As Bruce Kawin explains: “Repetition makes identical. People who perform identical actions are related by virtue of that action: the differences between them are obliterated, just as the temporal discrepancies between performances of an identical act are suspended” (92). By using repetition the rules of clock time are denied, and psychological time is emphasized.

Repetition adds to the sense of coherence in Mrs Dalloway, because it directly connects characters and it redirects readers to the first occurrence of the repeated image or phrase. A repetitive narrative defies linearity. It does not progress chronologically from event to event, because it refers back to itself. The narrative becomes circular and has a strong internal coherence.

In Mrs Dalloway, Woolf repeatedly uses a phrase from Shakespeare: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun” (MD 10). It is a line from Cymbeline and is part of a sonnet that is spoken at the deathbed of one of the characters in Shakespeare’s play. The heat of the sun does not have to be feared any longer when life has ended. Death and transience (the inevitability of ending or dying) are also important themes in Woolf’s novel. Death forms the inevitable end. Death is the moment when clock time has run out.

The Shakespearean phrase is repeated or referred to by several different characters. Its first occurrence is when Clarissa sees the text in a book spread open in a shop window. She reads: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, nor the furious winter’s rages” (MD 10). Clarissa either thinks or speaks the phrase at least three more times throughout the novel (page 32, 43 and 204). Septimus Warren Smith thinks of the lines from Shakespeare when he is at home: “Fear no more, says the heart in the body; fear no more” (MD 153). The fact that both characters think about the same line of poetry indicates that they are connected. Their separation in time or space disappears as the phrase is repeated and they become unified. Even Peter Walsh indirectly refers briefly to the citation from Cymbeline by saying “Still, the sun was hot. Still one got over things” (MD 71).

Woolf’s use of repetition is subtle. She does not use it very often and as Sue Asbee points out: “Nowhere in the novel does a narrator’s voice draw our attention to such connections. Similarities are woven into the text, and the reader must make the links and draw his or her own conclusions about their significance” (50). Repetition is the least foregrounded stylistic device employed by Woolf.



The Clock Strikes Six


Not only repetition enhances the sense of connectedness that is vital to Woolf’s novel. As James Naramore points out: “[T]he minds of the characters can be shown to have a unity not only through subtle transitions and a consistent prose style, but also by means of the very images which are used to evoke their states of mind” (98) These images pull the story together, but they are also the largest source of disruption within the novel. One of the most important images in Mrs Dalloway is Big Ben, and not surprisingly it has several different functions within the novel. First of all it divides the novel into temporal units: “It was precisely twelve o’clock” (MD 103) is the opening of a paragraph that is preceded by a blank line in the text. The time indication suggests a new episode. Big Ben also functions as a unifying element, and thirdly it creates a reality in relation to which the characters’ inner experiences must be placed.

Peter Childs argues that Woolf uses the striking of Big Ben to contrasts private with public time, which is essentially the same divide as psychological and clock time. Childs gives an example with which he illustrates the contrast between the public and the private.

[Virginia Woolf] may start to describe a character’s thoughts when a clock begins striking the hour, report those thoughts for several pages and then return to the character’s awareness of the clock finishing striking. In public time only a few seconds have passed, but in the character’s mind it may be nearer to several minutes. (171)

The striking of the clock evidently represents clock time, which Child’s refers to as public time. The thoughts of the character take place in psychological time. Child’s example illustrates an aspect of psychological time not yet introduced in this discussion. The discrepancy between clock time and psychological time not only exists in the mind, but can also be created in relation to clock time. In the example taken from Mrs Dalloway, Woolf creates an experience of psychological time that lasts longer than the actual experience in clock time. Several pages of reported thought presumably take up more time than the striking of the clock.

The discrepancy between in the inner and the outer registration of time exists in reality and is illustrated by temporal disjunctions in the novel. The time that elapses in the narrative indicated by the striking of Big Ben and other clocks and the distances covered by the characters do not add up.[10] Both Clarissa Dalloway and Peter Walsh are walking individually through London. The landmarks both Peter and Clarissa encounter during their walks are described in the book. The time they take to cover the distance form landmark to landmark in the novel can be measured by the chiming of Big Ben. The time it would take somebody to cover the same distance in reality is quite different. As Andelys Wood argues in her article on the representation of London in Mrs Dalloway, there are “discrepancies, even impossibilities: nearly all the walks that clearly structure the novel must take considerably longer than the time so precisely allotted to them” (19).

 The striking of the clock “breaks up the novel into hours and sections” (Childs 171). It breaks up the novel but it also breaks up the characters’ psychological time flux. The chiming of Big Ben forms an intrusion into the thoughts and the lives of the characters, as they are reminded of reality. Anna Benjamin indicates why Virginia Woolf uses clock time:

When time is stated exactly by Woolf, it is 1) to indicate the simultaneity of certain acts; 2) to provide a transition from one character to another; 3) to provide a transition from the present to past; 4) to suggest the fact that characters are bound together by time. (217)

Benjamin here seems to confuse Woolf’s stating of clock time with other structural elements in Mrs Dalloway. Big Ben and several other clocks are used to explicitly state the time. These moments that are exemplary of clock time function as a reminder of a temporal reality that connects all characters in the novel and pulls the novel together within its temporal structure of a single day. Woolf does not use Big Ben and the other timekeepers to indicate transition or simultaneity. Big Ben is an image that repeatedly reminds the characters, and the reader alike, that reality keeps running according to clock time.



Concluding Mrs Dalloway


The techniques Woolf uses create an otherworldly realm that exists in psychological time. This plane is contrasted with the reality of clock time. Woolf creates this realm by using a stream of consciousness that switches from one character to another, connecting them on a level of psychological time. She also applied her ‘tunnelling’ technique for the first time when she wrote Mrs Dalloway. The tunnels create the possibility for Woolf to integrate the past in the narrative, resulting in an almost parallel realm of past coexisting with the present. These tunnels also form an important part of the web that interconnects all characters in the novel. The interconnectedness and cohesion is further enhanced by Woolf’s subtle use of repetition. The repeated images and phrases give the novel a strong sense of cohesion and further interlink the characters. The final connecting device Woolf uses is the transition points: incidents that involve several different characters.

Virginia Woolf has made use of many different techniques in her novel Mrs Dalloway that disrupt linear time and create a sense of cohesion in the fragmented reality of the early twentieth century. These aspects of Mrs Dalloway, together with the preoccupation with time already suggested by the formal characteristics of the novel, create a novel in which the Modernist interest in the human consciousness and the psychological experience of time is clearly illustrated.



Psychological Time and The Hours


The Hours


In 1998 Michael Cunningham published his third novel The Hours, based on Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. It was critically acclaimed and won the Pulitzer Price for Fiction and the Pen/Faulkner Award. The Hours has been considered a homage to Woolf, a re-telling of Mrs Dalloway, an imitation of Woolf’s novel, and many other things. Cunningham himself has described The Hours as “an improvisation of sorts on Woolf’s great novel of 1925, Mrs Dalloway” (The Years 4).

By choosing The Hours as the title for his 1998 novel, Michael Cunningham makes a bold statement. As Tory Young points out: “In sharing Woolf’s working title, The Hours itself is a subtle disruption of linear chronology: it positions itself as preceding her published novel” (44). Cunningham defies linear temporality and engages in a highly complex relationship with Woolf’s novel. It is difficult to pin down how the connection between The Hours and Mrs Dalloway is constructed. According to Young, Cunningham “has updated [Mrs Dalloway], inserted Woolf, as author and character within it, and embodied her theories of characterization in modern fiction” (33).

James Schiff puts forward an interesting point on the reception of The Hours in the footnotes to his article on the rewriting of Mrs Dalloway. He “discovered through teaching Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Cunningham’s The Hours to various classes – undergraduate, graduate, and a community book group – readers generally had difficulty following and finishing the former whereas the latter was viewed as accessible and highly engaging” (381 no. 12). Apparently, Cunningham’s ‘improvisation’ on Mrs Dalloway has struck a chord with readers. Earlier in his article Schiff explains:

Woolf’s novel becomes more accessible when retold by Cunningham. In Mrs Dalloway we are plunged into the narrative without knowledge of where we are, what exactly is happening, or who the characters are. In The Hours, there is not the same degree of ambiguity or confusion. Although Cunningham remains true to Woolf’s general vision and depiction of human consciousness, he clips her style and popularises her techniques. (369)

Cunningham has managed to create a retelling of Mrs Dalloway that is far more accessible than Woolf’s original text. He has carefully chosen elements from Mrs Dalloway and inserted them into his narrative. Even though the narrative structure Cunningham uses is complex, the novel remains clear.

Not only has Cunningham has incorporated Mrs Dalloway, but also Woolf’s opinions on fiction and facts from her personal life. He has adopted several techniques Woolf uses in Mrs Dalloway. By adopting her techniques and using Mrs Dalloway as an inspiration Cunningham represents psychological time and the sense of connectedness that is typical of Mrs Dalloway.

 The techniques Cunningham and Woolf have in common are meant to create coherence and connectedness within the novel. Both authors represent the inner experience of the characters, in both novels the relationship between the past and the present plays an important part, and both use pivotal images that function as transition points in the narrative. Although Mrs Dalloway and The Hours share several characteristics on a structural and stylistic level, their relationship is more than one of original and copy.

Cunningham acknowledges Mrs Dalloway as his source in several different ways. He gives Mrs Dalloway a role as one of the connecting elements in The Hours and uses it to defy linearity and create a circular narrative. Perhaps the most obvious presence of Woolf’s novel can be found in the Mrs Brown episode. It reproduces large excerpts taken literally from Mrs Dalloway as Laura Brown is reading them. The second clear demonstration of the presence of Mrs Dalloway is the character Clarissa Vaughan. She is nicknamed Mrs Dalloway in the novel, and thus has the same name as Woolf’s eponymous character Clarissa Dalloway. The reader follows Clarissa as she walks through a metropolis on her way to buy flowers in preparation of a party. This description can be applied to both Mrs Dalloway and The Hours. The third narrative strand is formed by the episode titled Mrs Woolf. The protagonist in this part of the narrative is the author Virginia Woolf. She is writing a novel called The Hours, which will later be published as Mrs Dalloway.

 Cunningham manages to go full circle by introducing an authorial figure in the character of Richard Worthington Brown. Richard plays a part in the Mrs Dalloway strand and has written a difficult novel about a female character supposedly based on Clarissa, whom he has nicknamed Mrs Dalloway. Thus Mrs Dalloway is fictionalised three times within Cunningham’s novel: first as an observation of Woolf writing Mrs Dalloway, secondly as a character within The Hours, and thirdly as the protagonist in Richard’s novel.

The structure of the novel is similar to Mrs Dalloway to the extent that all three narrative threads span one single day. The main difference between the novels is that the characters in The Hours are separated by time and space, whereas all the character in Mrs Dalloway are in the same city on the same day. The thread concerned with Mrs Woolf takes place in 1923 in London, Mrs Brown’s in 1949 in Los Angeles, and Mrs Dalloway’s at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. Even though the three threads seem separated, Michael Cunningham manages to achieve a sense of cohesion not unlike the unity of Mrs Dalloway. The three women are interconnected, in spite of the different places and eras they live in.

 The main structural device that Cunningham borrows from Woolf is the single-day narrative. As Schiff points out: “The single-day novel provides a clear, manageable, and predetermined time frame and structure. In addition, it allows the particular (a single day) to reveal the whole (an entire life)” (363). Cunningham is fascinated by this concept. In a short article on The Hours he explains that “any day in anyone’s life contains most of what we need to know about all of life, very much the way the blueprint for an entire organism is imprinted on every strand of its DNA” (The Years 7). Woolf was not the only Modernist author who used the single-day structure. Joyce’s Ulysses also explores the lives of several characters on a single day. A single day as the temporal structure of a novel compels the author to focus on the consciousness of the characters. This focus results in the representation of thought and internal experience by using the stream-of-consciousness technique.



The Liquid Mind


Stream of consciousness is one of the most important techniques used by Modernists, as has been illustrated in the previous chapter. As was pointed out in the previous chapter, Woolf is considered one of the main representatives of stream of consciousness writers. When writing an improvisation on Mrs Dalloway, an author cannot deny the importance of stream of consciousness. Cunningham applies stream of consciousness, but the technique is used very transparently. The thoughts of the characters are easy to follow and there are no sudden switches of consciousness like in Woolf’s style. Cunningham separates the characters’ individual stream of consciousness, whereas Woolf lets the thoughts of her characters flow into each other. He acknowledges Woolf’s stream of consciousness in the prologue to his novel, where Mrs Woolf commits suicide by drowning herself in the river Ouse. Cunningham describes how Woolf’s body floats down the river:

Her feet (the shoes are gone) strike the bottom occasionally, and when they do they summon up a sluggish cloud of muck, filled with the black silhouettes of leaf skeletons, that stands all but stationary in the water after she has passed along out of sight. (7)

The Literary Encyclopedia Online uses a similar image to describe how Woolf uses stream of consciousness in Mrs Dalloway:

It is as if certain strong ideas lurk on the floor of the mind, and then rise up temporarily and come to the surface of the mind in the form of an image before sinking back down again into the depths and darkness of the unconscious. (1)

By using this technique Woolf allows thoughts to rise up through the stream of consciousness and lets them briefly touch the surface of the present. The images Cunningham uses to describe Woolf’s body floating down the river invoke the concept of stream of consciousness. The river can be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the stream-of-consciousness technique. Images from the world outside the river filter through the water and are described as if they influence Mrs. Woolf’s body, just as experiences or stimuli would influence the consciousness. The passage is written as if it is Mrs. Woolf who notices the colour of the water, the reflections on the surface and the weed catching in her hair.

 Stream of consciousness is represented by a body of water in the opening of Cunningham’s novel. Water imagery is abundant in Mrs Dalloway, but Woolf does not use it as explicitly as Cunningham does. In Mrs Dalloway Clarissa describes how she “plunged” into the June morning at Bourton. She continues by describing that particular morning as being “like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp” (MD 3). Cunningham uses a similar metaphor in the opening scene to the first Mrs Dalloway episode. His Clarissa experiences the morning as if she is standing "at the edge of a pool, watching the turquoise water lapping at the tiles, the liquid nets of sun wavering in the blue depths” (The Hours 9). Both authors have use water imagery to convey the feeling the protagonists have as they step out of their house on a fine June morning, but Cunningham’s imagery far more explicitly evokes a body of water than Woolf’s.

Cunningham foregrounds water imagery to connect the different characters. In the following scene Clarissa enters Richard’s apartment for the first time in the novel.

The apartment has, more that anything, an underwater aspect. Clarissa walks through it as she would negotiate the hold of a sunken ship. It would not be entirely surprising if a small school of silver fish darted by in the half-light.

She feels as if she has passed through a dimensional warp – through the looking glass, as it were; as if the lobby, the stairwell, and hallway exist in another realm altogether; another time. (The Hours 56)

Cunningham links the image of Richard’s apartment as an underwater abode to a different realm, or a different time, into which the characters can enter. Earlier Laura Brown experienced a similar feeling of changing from one realm into another.

She is taken by a wave of feeling, a sea-swell, that rises from under her breast and buoys her, floats her gently, as if she were a sea creature thrown back from the sand where it had beached itself – as if she had been returned from a realm of crushing gravity to her true medium, the suck and swell of saltwater, that weightless brilliance. (The Hours 40)

The world Laura Brown imagines is an underwater realm similar to the image Cunningham uses to describe Richard’s apartment. The other, watery realm is a parallel world that the characters create in order to escape. The parallel world is located on the plane of psychological time, and the characters escape through memories or other distortions of clock time.

Unlike Woolf, Cunningham has chosen to use repeated images to connect the characters and their emotional experience, instead of connecting the streams of consciousness directly like Woolf does.



The Caves of the Mind


Besides stream of consciousness as a technique to connect her characters, Woolf also applied ‘tunnelling’. ‘Tunnelling’ is a term that refers to the author’s ability to create an extensive network of past experiences, which form the history of a character. This network of tunnels enables the author to let the past and the present of a character merge, at the exact moment when an event from the past is most relevant to the present situation. The past superimposes itself on the present and the distinction between the character in the past and the character in the present is briefly blurred.

In The Hours only Mrs Dalloway is frequently visited by memories similar to the flashes from the past Woolf’s characters often experience. Cunningham has lightened up Woolf’s style by using fewer memories. In Mrs Dalloway the interpretation of Clarissa’s thoughts and experiences partly relies on her memories, which adds to the complexity of the novel. Cunningham’s characters are far more transparent and perhaps easier to identify with, because they are not presented as double beings existing of past and present experiences. They are very much connected to the present instead of the past.

Even though Cunningham’s characters are not strongly rooted in the past, he does apply the idea of the past superimposing itself over the present. The similarities between the consciousness of the three women in The Hours is striking and gives the impression that all three stories are layered on top of each other. Laura Brown imagines a ‘ghost self’ standing behind her when she looks into the mirror:

When she looks in the medicine-cabinet mirror, she briefly imagines that someone is standing behind her. There is no one, of course; it is just a trick of the light. For an instant, no more than that, she has imagined some sort of ghost self, a second version of her, standing immediately behind, watching. (The Hours 214)

This occurs moments before she contemplates how easy it would be to commit suicide. Suicide is a theme that is foreshadowed by the death of Virginia Woolf in the prologue. The ‘ghost self’ Mrs Brown sees in the mirror could be interpreted as the ghost of Mrs Woolf. Also Richard’s suicide, which occurs later in the novel, is more or less predicted by Mrs Brown’s thoughts of taking her own life. The moment Mrs Brown thinks she sees a ghost self in the mirror of the medicine cabinet is a moment that connects all three stories, thus superimposing the past and the future on the present.

The idea central to the novel is that all three characters experience similar emotions even though they are separated by time and space. Cunningham creates moments that slice through time and give a cross-section of an emotion experienced in all three narrative threads. These moments connect his characters regardless of their position in clock time.



The Clock Strikes Thirteen


The representation of clock time in The Hours differs from Mrs Dalloway, which is organised by the striking of Big Ben. Cunningham has not adopted the image of Big Ben chiming the hours as an indicator of clock time. In The Hours “objects are symptomatic of clock time” (Young 48). On several occasions in Mrs Dalloway Woolf explicitly states the time. Clock time functions as a reminder of a plane of reality and the relentless progress of time and is an important connector in her novel. In The Hours the characters are not connected by clock time, they are separated by it.

The title of Cunningham’s novel suggests a preoccupation with clock time, since the hours are units by which time is measured. The hours are the moments of which the characters’ lives are composed, the moments that are filled with trivialities, such as baking a cake or cutting the stems of flowers. The hours are the realisation of clock time. Their existence enables psychological time.

There are several moments where one of the characters looks at a clock or realises what time it is, but their effect is not as clear as the effect of Big Ben in Mrs Dalloway. What is also interesting is the fact that the three strands of narrative do not run parallel in relation to clock time. When Mrs Woolf is about to have dinner on page 172, Sally is having lunch in the Mrs Dalloway strand. It cannot possibly be the same time of day for all the characters.

Cunningham recreates the plane of reality, represented by Big Ben in Mrs Dalloway, through objects and their relationship to the clock. Clarissa observes objects in her kitchen:

Here in this kitchen white dishes are stacked pristinely, like holy implements, behind glassed cupboard doors. A row of old terra-cotta pots, glazed in various shades of crackled yellow, stand on the granite countertop. Clarissa recognizes these things, but stands apart from them. … They are only choices, one thing and then another, yes or no, and she sees how easily she could slip out of this life. (92)

The objects in Clarissa’s kitchen trigger her into desiring a parallel world, in which she is “still full of hope, still capable of doing anything” (92). The objects are tokens of the clock-governed reality in which Clarissa lives and they create the possibility of a parallel world that exists only in psychological time.

 Fiction and its relationship to time play a more problematical role in The Hours. On the one hand novels are objects, and thus symptomatic of clock time, on the other hand fiction is eternal. Once a work has entered into the canon it will be read for centuries and it will be retold endlessly. Leonard Woolf is convinced of the eternal quality of Virginia’s work and believes that “[h]er books may be read for centuries” (The Hours 33). Clarissa is not so sure about the eternity of literature or art. “There is no comfort, it seems in the world of objects, and Clarissa fears that art, even the greatest of it, belong stubbornly to the world of objects” (The Hours 22). She wants to believe Richard’s work will become eternal, but she also knows that his novel might be just an object that will vanish as time progresses relentlessly:

It’s possible that the citizens of the future, people not yet born, will want to read Richard’s elegies, his beautifully cadenced laments, his rigorously unsentimental offerings of love and fury, but it’s far more likely that his book will vanish along with almost everything else. Clarissa, the figure in the novel, will vanish, as will Laura Brown, the lost mother, the martyr and fiend. (The Hours 225)

Because it is a rewriting of Mrs Dalloway, Cunningham’s novel comments on the issue of art’s eternal quality. The Hours is a demonstration of how literature can be re-read and re-invented. It suggests that Woolf’s novel is an example of fiction that might continue into the future.



Hall of Mirrors


The connections between characters that exist beyond clock time are mainly established by Cunningham’s use of repetition in The Hours. The novel contains two levels of repetition. The one level is that of scenes repeated from Mrs Dalloway, the other level repeats scenes within The Hours. When Cunningham echoes scenes from Woolf, he establishes links between the characters in the two novels, and thus strengthens the connection between The Hours and Mrs Dalloway. The first scene of Mrs Dalloway opens with an image representing the city as a body of water which Clarissa is about to enter:

What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn. (3)

Cunningham opens his first chapter with a similar image. His Clarissa opens the door and is about to walk into city life:

The vestibule door opens onto a June morning so fine and scrubbed Clarissa pauses at the threshold as she would at the edge of a pool, watching the turquoise water lapping at the tiles, the liquid nets of sun wavering in the blue depths. As if standing at the edge of a pool she delays for a moment the plunge, the quick membrane of chill, the plain shock of immersion. (9)

Through similar imagery a connection is established between Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway and Cunningham’s Clarissa Vaughan. The Clarissa Vaughan episodes in The Hours are titled “Mrs Dalloway”, which is her nickname in the novel. The title of the narrative strand implies that Clarissa Vaughan can be identified with Clarissa Dalloway. Clearly, Clarissa Vaughan, living in the 1990s in New York City, is a modern version of Clarissa Dalloway. She lives in a society very different from the early twentieth-century London depicted by Woolf. Tory Young indicates that “in adopting Woolf’s narrative template, metaphors and motifs, Cunningham suggests that social changes do not lead to significant differences in emotional experience” (41). Young is referring to the Clarissa-characters in both novels. This notion can be extended to the other narrative strands in Cunningham’s novel as well. Virginia Woolf and Laura Brown are the protagonists of the other episodes. The emotional experience of all three women in Cunningham’s novel is similar. The differences in time and place do not influence their experience.

Not only does Cunningham integrate scenes from Mrs Dalloway in The Hours, he also repeats images in the different threads of the novel to indicate that the characters share essentially the same feelings. Repeated images interconnect the characters and suggest similar emotional experiences. An example can be found in the images Cunningham uses to describe Mrs Dalloway’s walk through Washington Square Park on her way to buy flowers:

You know the story about Manhattan as a wilderness purchased for a string of

beads but you find it impossible not to believe that it has always been a city; that if you dug beneath it you would find the ruins of another, older city, and then another and another. Under the cement and grass of the park (she has crossed into the park now, where the old woman throws back her head and sings). (The Hours 14)

When she has arrived in the flower shop “Clarissa chooses peonies and stargazer lilies, cream colored roses” (26). Mrs Woolf dreams of a park composed of these images in the opening scene of the Mrs Woolf episode:

It seems, suddenly, that she is not in her bed but in a park; a park impossibly verdant, green beyond green … Virginia moves through the park without quite walking; she floats through it, a feather of perception, unbodied. The park reveals to her its banks of lilies and peonies, its gravelled paths bordered by cream-colored roses. … Up ahead, on a circle of newly turned earth, a woman sings. (The Hours 30)

The park that features in Mrs Woolf’s dream is filled with the flowers Mrs Dalloway bought in the previous chapter. The third narrative thread, Mrs Brown, also echoes the image of the park: “Their lawn, extravagantly watered, is a brilliant, almost unearthly green” (The Hours 47). The park functions as an image that links all three characters. By connecting the characters it diminishes their separation in time and space and creates the possibility for them to experience similar feelings.

 Not only the female protagonists are joined through imagery. Cunningham also connects Richard Worthington Brown, Clarissa’s childhood friend and lover who suffers from AIDS, and Mrs Woolf. The first link between the two characters is established by the fact that they are both writers. In the novel they are also related by repetition. First of all, both characters commit suicide. Richard commits suicide by jumping out of his bedroom window and Mrs Woolf drowns herself in the river Ouse. Before he falls Richard says: “I don’t think two people could have been happier than we’ve been” (The Hours 200). Richard here repeats a sentence from Virginia Woolf’s suicide note. Woolf writes: “I can’t go on spoiling you life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been” (The Hours 6-7). Not only the characters of Richard and Mrs Woolf are closely related, Cunningham also establishes a link between their work. Mrs Woolf obviously wrote Mrs Dalloway. In The Hours Richard is the author of a “novel that meditates exhaustively on a woman” (The Hours 126). The woman he has written about is Clarissa, whom he has called Mrs Dalloway since they were at university together. This suggests that Richard’s novel can be seen as another version of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Richard’s novel further complicates the relationship between Mrs Dalloway and The Hours. Besides being a retelling of Mrs Dalloway, Cunningham’s novel implies yet another version of Woolf’s novel.



Mr Brown


Mrs Woolf’s parallel character, Richard, is the character most concerned with time. He voices a vision of time in which the past does not exist. His parallel realm exists of a perpetual present. As a writer suffering from AIDS, his mind wanders, while his body is comparatively healthy and ‘stands the test of time’. The relative strength of his body forces Richard to continue living. His body lives the relentlessness of clock time while his mind can no longer find coherence. Richard confuses past, present and future.

 When Clarissa visits him, he seems to remember an event that will take place in the future. Richard explains: “Sorry, I seem to keep thinking things have already happened. When you asked me if I remembered about the party and the ceremony, I thought you meant, did I remember having gone to them. And I did remember. I seem to have fallen out of time” (62). Richard’s notion of past, present and future does no longer exist. He confuses the past and the future and as a result lives in a perpetual present. Richard recalls a kiss he and Clarissa shared when they were teenagers:

“You kissed me beside a pond.”

“Ten thousand years ago.”

“It’s still happening.”

“In a sense, yes.”

“In reality. It’s happening in that present. This is happening in this present.” (66)

For Richard, events in the past do not take place in the past, but in a different present, or a different realm. That different present exits next to the present in which the novel takes place. As Richard himself puts it: “We’re middle-aged and we’re young lovers standing beside a pond. We’re everything, all at once.” (67) He believes the human consciousness to exist on several levels of psychological time, or perhaps in parallel worlds, similar to the underwater realm Clarissa and Laura enter.

Richard recreates these parallel worlds in his fiction, but owing to his condition he is no longer able to consciously distinguish between the different worlds. He can barely separate reality from fiction. Richard is afraid of “the party and the ceremony, and then the hour after that, and the hour after that” (197). Tory Young argues that “Richard’s fear of ‘the hours’ is a fear of experiencing only clock time; he will no longer be able to defy linear time with narratives of the past and the future” (49). Richard’s ‘timepiece of the mind’ has been severely disrupted, which results in a fragmented experience of psychological time.

Whereas other characters in the novel desire to escape to a realm of psychological time, Richard has run of out options as much as he is running out of time. Richard fears that all he will be able to experience is clock time, and simultaneously his mind had lost track of the psychological time. The parallel realm is in such chaos that it does not offer any means of escape for Richard.



Going to the Movies


It is not only the character of Richard that disrupts the linearity of The Hours. In 2002 The Hours was adapted into a film directed by Stephen Daldry. His version takes several characteristics of the novel and takes them beyond Cunningham’s retelling of Mrs Dalloway. Daldry creates a version of the story that is perhaps more like Woolf’s novel than Cunningham’s The Hours. Because the film returns to Mrs Dalloway in the adaptation of The Hours, Daldry disrupts the chronology even more strongly than Cunningham does.

An aspect that is unique to the film version of The Hours is Phillip Glass’s musical score that accompanies the film. On the website of the International Movie Database, one of the users comments on Phillip Glass’s addition to the film and calls it “evocative of the relentlessness of time” (5). Another element of sound used in the film is the ticking of the clock throughout the film. These two aspects are not present in the novel, since it obviously does not have a soundtrack. The effect of the soundtrack is similar to the effect of Big Ben in Mrs Dalloway, as it functions as a reminder of clock time and establishes a plane of reality. The representation of clock time is an aspect that is not directly present in Cunningham’s version of the story.

Besides the ticking of the clock and the score as elements that connect the individual scenes, the film’s use of images adds to the connectedness of the narrative. Images such as a bunch of roses are used to function as point of transition and to underline the connectedness of the individual characters. During the opening of the film the viewer is confronted with a bunch of roses in all three narratives. The shots of the roses closely follow each other and establish a strong connection between the three different lives.

Woolf used visual elements such as the backfiring car and the skywriting aeroplane to connect the individual characters. The film version of The Hours uses the same technique as Woolf does. By returning to techniques applied by Woolf, Daldry’s film version of The Hours establishes itself as a new retelling of Mrs Dalloway.

Cunningham’s novel was adapted for Hollywood cinema. The film won several awards and starred major actresses such as Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. The ripples in the surface that were caused by Mrs Dalloway have influenced many other artists and illustrate that there are endless retellings of a story.



Rippling into the Postmodern


Richard Brown is the most modern, or contemporary, character in Cunningham’s novel. He embodies Postmodernism. His vision on time represents the rejection of the past, and his novel, another retelling of Mrs Dalloway, adds to the Postmodern notion that “there are no new stories, just endless retellings” (Young 34). Another important concept is decentring. There is no core text or author in the body of texts that is related to The Hours. Hughes claims that “a work of art in not simply what the artist creates. It is a link in a chain” (360). Mrs Dalloway, Cunningham’s The Hours, Daldry’s The Hours and other retellings of either of these texts form a chain, or a web of connected texts in which there is no centre. Woolf created a pattern of waves in a pond by writing Mrs Dalloway. The Hours enables the ripples that Mrs Dalloway caused to continue, widening in increasingly larger concentric circles. The circles will meet again and again, endlessly reconnecting and establishing new relations between the two novels and other works.

 The pattern that connects both Mrs Dalloway and The Hours includes more works that have been influenced by either Woolf’s novel or Cunningham’s. The Hours is not the only contemporary novel inspired by Mrs Dalloway. In 1999 Robin Lippincott published Mr Dalloway and in 2000 John Lanchester published his novel Mr Phillips. Both novels are single-day narratives and are related to Mrs Dalloway in style or structure.

 A different approach to the relationship between Mrs Dalloway and The Hours is via the concept of ‘hauntology’. Jacques Derrida coined the term ‘hauntology’[11] to indicate how a ghost of someone or something, a political manifesto or a novel, can haunt a person or a work in the present. In an article attempting to clarify Derrida’s notion of ‘hauntology’ Lisa Gye explains what ghosts are:

Ghosts arrive from the past and appear in the present. However, the ghost cannot be properly said to belong to the past, even if the apparition represents someone who has been dead for many centuries, for the simple reason that a ghost is clearly not the same thing as the person who shares its proper name. Does then the 'historical' person who is identified with the ghost properly belong to the present? Surely not, as the idea of a return from death fractures all traditional conceptions of temporality. The temporality to which the ghost is subject is therefore paradoxical, as at once they 'return' and make their apparitional debut. (3)

Gye’s explanation refers only to the deceased, but the paradox can also be applied to literature and art. A literary work like The Hours is an original and new piece of text, while at the same time it is a revisiting of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Hauntology disrupts the notion of linear time, as images or events from the past are free to roam the present.

Tory Young cites Hal Foster on the subject of shadowing in her study of The Hours:

Analyzing the postmodern trend of spectrality in contemporary art Hal Foster suggests that the “shadowing in play today is more muted, a sort of outlining and shading, in the manner that Mrs Dalloway outlines and shades The Hours by Michael Cunningham. (44)

Young continues to say that:

Foster fails to consider the fact that once you have read The Hours you cannot replace Mrs Dalloway outside its sphere of influence. I think he underestimates the degree of explicit engagement of Cunningham’s novel with Woolf’s and the way The Hours now haunts Mrs Dalloway and not vice versa. (44)

Similar to the haunting of Mrs Dalloway and The Hours, the three narrative threads in The Hours also haunt each other. The three stories cross boundaries of time in order to connect.

Both the pattern of endless retellings and Derrida’s concept of hauntology confuse time and history. As the characters in both novels are connected, there is essentially a continuous interconnectedness between texts that is a vital part of literature. Modernism was looking for the pattern beneath the chaos of reality and perhaps found it in the connection between people and ideas. In Postmodernism this connectedness has been extended into a vast interconnecting web of texts without a centre, which can stretch over time and space. Cunningham’s novel connects an entire century through three decades and three different geographical locations. He has stretched Woolf’s connectedness to last into Postmodernism.





Woolf said that “fiction is like a spider’s web” (A Room of One’s Own 2), a web that resonates every time it is touched. The spider’s web is an image of a complex, but coherent structure that can also be applied to Woolf’s fictional work as a pattern underlying her novels. Like many Modernists, Woolf tried to create a cohering pattern underneath the chaos of reality.

 The distinction between clock time and psychological time plays an important part in Mrs Dalloway, and Virginia Woolf uses several different techniques to represent the flux of time and the stream of life that encompasses all her characters. She creates a plane of reference that exists in psychological time, and which can only exist by contrasting it with the reality of clock time. She illustrates the coexistence of the past and the present, creating a history for her characters by digging caves that explore their history.

Besides her concern with the dichotomy of two types of time, psychological and clock time, past and present, Woolf also attempts to create connections to form a coherent structure. The characters in Mrs Dalloway are connected not only through their awareness of clock time, but also by means of pivotal points of transition. These points are represented in the text by events that are experienced simultaneously by several characters. Woolf uses the event to switch from one character to another. Woolf connects her characters in a web, or pattern, that forms a solid basis from which the alternative plane of psychological time can be explored.

Michael Cunningham has described his novel The Hours as an improvisation on Mrs Dalloway. An improvisation implies change and the addition of new elements, and that is exactly what Cunningham has done. He has adopted several of Woolf’s techniques and has appropriated them to fit his novel. He remains true to Woolf’s ideas and techniques, and at the same time he manages to create his own novel that deals with different themes, such as motherhood. The Hours is not only an exploration of a single day in the life of an ordinary woman, but an exploration of how “any day in anyone’s life contains most of what we need to know about all of life” (Cunningham, The Years 7). With The Hours Cunningham shows that any day in anyone’s life can be applied to anybody’s life. He shows that the days of Mrs Woolf, Mrs Brown and Mrs Dalloway pass, following the same pattern, just as the days and lives of many other women.

Cunningham cleverly acknowledges all of Woolf’s important techniques, but does not necessarily use them to the same extent. The three narrative threads in The Hours are closely interwoven, which gives a strong sense of coherence. The main cause of this coherence is Cunningham’s use of repetition. Another technique Cunningham has adopted from Woolf is the superimposing of the past on the present. Whereas Woolf uses the technique on a small scale when characters are visited by moment from the past, Cunningham applies it to his entire novel. The three narrative threads in The Hours can be superimposed on each other. The thematic concerns are similar in each story. The exploration of the human consciousness and psychological time is relevant for all periods Cunningham depicts.

Cunningham has watered down Modernism: he has taken Mrs Dalloway and some of its basic principles, but has taken out the density and complexity, thus creating a novel that is far more transparent than Woolf’s novel. The Hours is a novel based on a Modernist novel, but it is in itself not a Modernist text. Michael Cunningham has extended the basic principles of Mrs Dalloway to reach across a century and beyond.



List of Works Cited



home list theses contence  


[1] The sources for this brief history of time are A. Adriaans’ website Tijdsbesef in Heden en Verleden and Charles M. Sherover’s book Are We in Time?

[2] Based on the theories of management engineer Frederick W. Taylor. Taylorism was meant to improve productivity (and it did). At the same time it destroyed the soul of work, dehumanised factories, and made men into automatons. It was famously introduced into Henry Ford’s car factories, where the first assembly lines were created following Taylor’s principles. The work space was desinged for effiency and job differentation. People were separated and communication decreased.

[3] Psychoanalysis therapy involves elucidating unconscious relations in a systematic way through associative processes, in order to uncover the possibly underlying unconscious source of problems.

[4] For the purpose of this discussion it will be assumed that “both Modernism and Postmodernism are phenomena, primarily, of twentieth-century Anglo-American and European Culture” (Selden, xi), and that the authors mentioned in the discussion are essentially Modernist authors.

[5] Another term that is surrounded by much debate is interior monologue. Several critics argue that interior monologue is the same thing as stream of consciousness, while others claim that it is a technique that is a part of stream-of-consciousness writing. In an article on interior monologue John Mepham explains:

“Some critics have used the term interior monologue as if it were synonymous with stream of consciousness. However, nowadays it is more common, and more analytically useful, to use the term as a label for this distinct variety of stream-of-consciousness prose.” (3)

[6] An example of characters being suddenly revisited by a vivid moment from the past can be found in Proust’s work. His term for this kind of memory is ‘mémorie involontaire’, a memory involuntary triggered by an event in the present. The most famous example of a memory trigger is the taste of madeleines in his À la recherche du Temps Perdu. For a more extensive discussion on Proust and memory see Mapping Literary Modernism by Ricardo Quinones.

[7] Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1992) 3

All future references to Mrs Dalloway are to this edition and are cited in parentheses in the text. The novel will be designated as MD.

[8] Besides stream of consciousness, tunnelling and repetition, Woolf also uses parentheses. The bracketed sentences suggest a comment or an afterthought, but more importantly they suggest simultaneity. There is hardly any time in reality for the words in brackets to be expressed, and they are thought while the stream of consciousness is already racing on to another thought.

[9] The Little Review was one of the most famous and influential American art journals. It was edited by Margaret Anderson, an author, editor and publisher. From 1917 to 1920 The Litle Review published excerpts from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was at that time still unpublished. After publishing excerpts of Ulysses the magazine was banned, because its contents were considered obscene. (Source: The Columbia Encyclopedia Online Edition)

[10] For a more extensive discussion on the discrepancies of time and space in Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway see Walking the Web in the Lost London of Mrs Dalloway” by Andelys Wood.

[11] Hauntology is a pun on the word ontology, which is pronounced the same. Whereas ontology is the study of being, hauntology refers to “the paradoxical state of the spectre between being/non-being, alive/dead, and presence/absence” (Richter, 1).