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Norah Vincent's Novel ADELINE (2015) (REVIEW ESSAY)

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From flickr.com/photos/130552842@N04/16823568940/: Exploring psyche and communion consciousness with story
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) May 13, 2015: Before World War I (1914-1918), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) initiated the deep inward turn in personal consciousness that challenged people in a new way to construct a meaningful story of their lives that included taking their early childhood into account.

In the English-speaking avant-garde world in Britain, James Strachey translated Freud's works into English. His English translations of Freud's works were published by Hogarth Press, which was run by Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. (To this day, the Hogarth Press imprint still officially holds the copyright on the English translations in the STANDARD EDITION of Freud's works.)

For a time, C. G. Jung (1875-1961) was one of Freud's avant-garde followers in Europe. But then shortly before WWI, Jung famously broke with Freud. For his part, Jung initiated the deeper inward turn of consciousness that challenged people in a new way to construct a story of their lives that included taking into account the collective unconscious and the archetypes in the human psyche.

In the English-speaking world, literary artists such as James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf wrote semi-autobiographical literary works that expressed the deep inward turn in personal consciousness represented by Freud -- and occasionally also hinted at the deeper inward turn of consciousness suggested by Jung, as Joyce did in his famous experimental novel ULYSSES (1914) and as Eliot did in his famous poem "The Waste Land" (1922; first published in book form in Britain in 1923 by Hogarth Press).

Now, progressives and liberals have heard of the notorious theory of trickle-down economics advanced by certain American conservatives. That notorious economic theory is challenged today by economists such as Paul Krugman who follow Keynesian economic theory -- the economic theory advanced by the British economist John Maynard Keynes, a member of the famous avant-garde group of persons known as the Bloomsbury group that also included James Strachey, Lytton Strachey, the Strachey sisters, Clive Bell, Leonard Woolf, and the two sisters Vanessa Stephen and Virginia Stephen, whose married names became Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, respectively.

In the spirit of trickle-down avant-garde culture, Virginia Woolf has been lionized by certain feminists over the last half century or so.

Of course in the spirit of trickle-down avant-garde culture, Joyce, Lawrence, and Eliot had been lionized by earlier male academics, including but not limited to Joseph Campbell and Marshall McLuhan, among others.

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In the spirit of trickle-down avant-garde culture designed to reach a far broader audience of educated readers, Norah Vincent's well-informed novel ADELINE: A NOVEL OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (2015) can accurately be described as both a historical novel featuring historical persons as characters and as a novel of ideas -- psychological ideas about Virginia Woolf's psyche regarding her own personal past.

Norah Vincent's previous books include SELF-MADE MAN: ONE WOMAN'S JOURNEY INTO MANHOOD AND BACK AGAIN (2006) and VOLUNTARY MADNESS: LOST AND FOUND IN THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (2008).

Admittedly Virginia Woolf's novels have not trickled down to a broad popular audience in American culture. A taste for her novels definitely requires an acquired taste. As a result, Norah Vincent's novel about Virginia Woolf may not appeal to a broad popular audience in American culture either.

But I'd prefer to see Norah Vincent's novel about Virginia Woolf galvanize a new wave of interest in her fine novel TO THE LIGHTHOUSE (1927) among progressives and liberals in American culture today. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is admittedly trickier to read than is Norah Vincent's novel ADELINE. But reading ADELINE could serve as a springboard for progressives and liberals to read TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, if they have not already read it.

You see, progressives and liberals in American culture today should work to construct a deep story of their personal lives that is as deep and perceptive about their own lives as TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is about Virginia Woolf's life as a young girl. In that novel, she portrays her parents perceptively and lovingly, including their limitations.

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In the New Testament, we read wise advice about taking the log from our own eye (Mt. 7:3; Lk. 6:42), because the truth will set us free (Jn. 16:13). No doubt this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, progressives and liberals in American culture today need to work toward seeing their parents as perceptively and lovingly, including their limitations, as Virginia Woolf saw her own parents as the fictional characters in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE.

Now, unless and until progressives and liberals see their own parents as perceptively and lovingly as Virginia Woolf saw her own parents, progressives and liberals will have not have a clear-sighted view of their own personal past. As a result, they will probably not have a clear-sighted view of the present either -- or a clear-sighted view of the past of Western culture.

For accessible further reading about a clear-sighted view of our Western cultural history, I'd urge progressives and liberals to read my first e-book WALTER J. ONG: ON HOW AND WHY THEINGS ARE THE WAY THEY ARE (2014), which is available at Amazon.com. Also see my book WALTER ONG'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO CULTURAL STUDIES: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE WORD AND I-THOU COMMUNICATION (2015; 1st ed., 2000).

NORAH VINCENT'S NOVEL

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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