Towards the Metaphorical Association: The Modernity of Language in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

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Virginia Woolf’s The Waves has been commonly considered the stream-of-
consciousness novel in blossom. This study attempts to tentatively shift Woolf from the fixed connotation of the omnipotent author in stream-of-consciousness fiction by focalizing on the “medium of language” and examining the Jakobsonean and Barthesian metaphoric association in the novel. With the characters’ transitions from the logical metonymy to the fragmented “little language” and “visual impression” which are “unattached to any line of reason” in the novel, Woolf prefigures the modernity of language that the Tel Quel critics probed in the 1970s. Suddenly recessing from the left-wing fever in France, the Tel Quel critics, Philippe Sollers, Kristeva, Barthes, etc., shed the skin of transcendental elites in political engagements and appealed to the psychoanalytic exploration of “the role of the intellectual in the society.” They re-examined the “transparent tool” of language and saw that the modern writing differentiated itself from Realist works and revealed the apocalyptic light after the absence of the ultimate Divinity. In this sense, this study brackets the transcendental gesture of the omnipotent Author and reads that the dramatic changes towards the metaphorical association in the characters expose the limit of logo-centric Knowledge. Following the evolution of the concept of language, this study will show that Woolf’s experimental “form” of The Waves temporarily departs us from the humanistic tradition of the stream-of-consciousness school to the modernity of language. As it challenges not only the Realist Author-God but also the stream-of-consciousness omnipotent one, the novel creates an apocalyptic, sensory space that undermines the Edwardian, male-dominant elitist tradition and facilitates the wholeness ideal of democracy.


Keywords: the metaphorical association, the modernity of language, Virginia Woolf, Julia Kristeva, the limit of logo-centric Knowledge
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Tai-chiung Chang

St. John's University, The Department of Applied English
Taipei, Taiwan

About the Author
Tai-chiung Chang is currently an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University, Taiwan.

Ref: H08P0049