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A New Historicist Perspective on between the Acts

Author GongChao
Tutor ShenFuYing
School Shandong University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Between the Acts New Historicism literary creation history
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
Downloads 161
Quotes 2
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Virginia Woolf is an active writer in British literature, and her works cover a wide range, including literary criticism, fiction and poetry. Critics home and abroad have published many monographs on Woolf. Between the Acts, compared with Woolf’s other works, does not receive enough attention. New Historicism, as a branch of post-modernism, has a very strong impact on historical view and texts with historical themes. As Woolf’s last novel, influenced by various social factors, Between the Acts bears obvious features of New Historicism. On the basis of the previous research on Woolf and historical background of the novel, this thesis analyzes Between the Acts from New Historicist perspective. Accordingly it is divided into three chapters, dealing respectively with the relationship between history and literary creation, the characters in the novel and writing techniques.Chapter one penetrates into the relationships between history and artist, history and text, and history and readers. History is not truth, but a story where different forces and ideologies have a say, and where all personal opinions fight for their own sake. New Historicism regards writers as negotiators connecting their artistic creation with politics, cultural traditions and readers’aesthetic interests. Woolf’s historical view is profoundly influenced by feminism, and she regards history as the story constructed by men. Through reconstruction of history, Woolf interprets history in her own way to create a new history for women. New Historicism also believes in historicity of texts and textuality of history. The communications between history and art are abundant and frequent. In terms of the relationship between history and readers, New Historicism holds that readers are of the same importance as writers in artistic creation. Readers’wonder and resonance help to complete the artistic creation.Chapter two focuses on the discussion of the characters from a new historicist view. New Historicism advocates the recovery of the history for the oppressed. Women are marginalized and silenced for a long time. New Historicism holds that only through women’s voices can the history for women be found. By reconstructing the history in the historical play, La Trobe exposes women’s history from the shadow of men-dominated history. La Trobe is not only an oppressed woman, but as an artist, she suffers more than her male counterparts. It may help us to know the difficult situation of women after the analysis of La Trobe. This chapter also discusses the life of four characters in one day. New Historicism deconstructs dual opposition between men and women by claiming that men and women complement and depend on each other. Due to different personality, Isa and Giles, the estranged couple, are unfaithful to their marriage. However, they still love each other. At night, they unite after a quarrel. New Historicism concerns about family and the life of common people. Witnessing the prosperity and decline of England and the devastation of civilization, Lucy and Bart feel painful and turn to the past for relief. The fragments of Bart and Lucy’s life provide readers with a clue of life of common people of that time.Chapter three discusses the experimental writing techniques in Between the Acts. The novel is original in writing techniques, and typical of Woolf’s characterization. New Historicism advocates the recovery of the history left out by historians, and women’s history is one of the most important parts. Through the internal monologue of women characters, the novel exposes the pains and isolation of individuals, and more importantly, it exposes women’s history. New Historicism holds that history is connected by discontinuous time, and texts with historical themes should contain other artistic forms. Between the Acts breaks the linear time and lays emphasis on the analysis of various forms of art in the novel. The novel is a combination of prose, poetry and play. Uncertainty, as a feature of New Historicism, characterizes the novel, for the title has many implications and words in the novel can be interpreted in many ways. Woolf’s experimental techniques find its fullest expression in her last novel.The conclusion sums up the viewpoints of the previous three chapters. Woolf re-examines and characterizes history from a new perspective. The thesis adopts the theory of New Historicism to analyze the characteristics of Between the Acts.

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