Virginia Woolf and our knowledge of the external world

The longstanding critical refrain that Virginia Woolf's fiction represents a turn "inward" to the vagaries of the inner life has more recently been countered with an "outward" approach emphasizing Woolf's interest in the material world, its everyday objects and their social and political significance. Yet one of the most curious and pervasive features of Woolf's oeuvre is that characters are so frequently wrong in their perceptions. This essay consolidates the inward and outward approaches by tracing the trope of misperception in Woolf's fiction as well as in her conceptions of the work of author and reader. For Woolf, the modern literary experience derives from the nature of the faculties of perception, the tenuous points of connectionand disjunctionbetween the inner and the outer worlds
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