Department or Program



As a genre, the novel is inextricable from the narrative form. For Virginia Woolf, a novelist who often preoccupied herself with the chaos of time, this partnership between novel and narrative can be a disquieting one. As a concept, time eludes even the broadest attempts at definition, so all attempts to make objective claims about it are accordingly moot. As a result, temporality—or one’s subjective experience of time—has proven to be particular useful for my thesis, which examines the theme of temporality in three of Woolf’s novels: The Waves, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. At the core of my analysis are questions specific to Woolf’s modernist dilemma: how does an author portray the continuous becoming of time in light of the inadequacies of language itself and the formal constraints of the novel as a genre? The Waves is a famously elusive narrative, in part because of its polyvocality. Its male narrators, I argue, emphasize storytelling in order to reinforce notions of historical temporality; conversely, some of the novel’s female narrators tend towards more natural forms of temporality as a rejoinder to this logocentrism. In my analysis of Orlando, I argue that Woolf parodies assumptions about linear time in a way that informs her experimentations with gender, voice, and the temporal in The Waves by depicting a “queer” temporality via the titular character’s gender transversals. Finally, symbolic and structural representations of time in To the Lighthouse convey the disparate ways in which its characters make sense of their own temporalities, reinforcing a notion Woolf puts forward in The Waves and Orlando: that subjectivity permeates every dimension of narrative expression, even the dimension of time itself.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Osucha, Eden

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.