Consciousness presentation and shifts in point of view in Virginia Woolf’s novels: from a linguistic perspective

Cui, Yaxiao (2016) Consciousness presentation and shifts in point of view in Virginia Woolf’s novels: from a linguistic perspective. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores the presentation of consciousness in Virginia Woolf’s novels with a particular focus on shifts in narrative point of view. I argue that the linguistic mechanisms triggering or co-occurring with viewpoint shifts are important means of presenting or linguistically capturing the socially-oriented interactive quality of fictional minds, a significant aspect of consciousness presentation that has not been fully explored in either narratological studies of fiction or literary criticism of Virginia Woolf. Aiming for a systematic examination of the linguistic correlates of viewpoint shifts, I conduct detailed stylistic analysis of two of Woolf’s most representative stream of consciousness novels, Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, in which shifts in point of view occur frequently and rapidly. I focus on four crucial linguistic indices of viewpoint shifts: discourse parentheticals, attributing parentheticals, connectives and adjacency pairs. Drawing on findings in linguistics and discourse analysis, I explain how these linguistic indices allow the text to accommodate multiple viewpoints and, more importantly, to convey the inter-subjective connections between different consciousnesses. With these linguistic features linking different viewpoints, the very fabric of the text embodies the social nature of fictional minds and puts into question the assumption of the impenetrable consciousness.

I supplement the examination of linguistic correlates of viewpoint shifts with an empirical study that explores reader responses to shifts in point of view in narrative texts. The results show that the complexity resulting from this narrative technique is not only recognised by scholars working in the fields of literary criticism or narratological studies but can also be perceived by readers who have received no specific training in literary interpretation. Shifts in point of view can cause difficulty for readers in both general comprehension and viewpoint attribution. I propose that the perceived difficulty may direct attention to the juxtaposition of different narrative viewpoints and thus guide readers towards identifying the connections between different minds.

This thesis sets out to be a significant work in both narratological investigation of fictional consciousness and literary studies of Virginia Woolf. From a narratological perspective, it contributes to the study of fictional consciousness by redressing the imbalance between the linguistic investigation of individual consciousness and the linguistic investigation of social minds; meanwhile, it also expands existing theoretical accounts of the linguistic presentation of inter-subjective orientedness of consciousness. From a literary perspective, it brings a fresh insight into Woolf’s presentation of consciousness by providing a detailed linguistic account of her narrative techniques and in-depth probing into the nature of consciousness as reflected in her novels.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sotirova, Violeta
Stockwell, Peter
Keywords: Consciousness; point of view; shifts; Virginia Woolf
Subjects: P Language and literature > PR English literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 31514
Depositing User: Cui, Yaxiao
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2017 12:35
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2017 13:20

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