How do Woolf's arguments in the first chapter support a Modernist point of view?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Woolf provides one of the basic definitions for Modernism as a point where "all human relations shifted," it is representative of how the essence of the movement is a fundamental change in the way in which human beings understand one another.  This is evident in Woolf's first chapter, the exposition to a work that seeks to reconfigure the relationship between men and women.  The mere inclusion of "I" as not a strict narrator, but a persona is one such way that Woolf's argument for transformation in how the genders are viewed is a Modernist reconceptualization of the artistic narrative and the individual's place within it.  Woolf's ideas of how men have prospered in the realm of writing and women have not is another Modernist slant towards her thesis.  It helps to illuminate the idea that women have been systematically disadvantaged in the realm of writing, as opposed to being unable to write because of some "natural condition."  When Woolf talks about the disparity between colleges for men and for women, it is another Modernist take on the idea that there has been a systemic disempowerment for women, and not something that is a mere condition of being.  Throughout the first chapter, Woolf is driven by a need to "shift" the way in which women and their role in the production of literature are viewed. She is not as concerned with substantiating what is, but rather shifting the emphasis to why constructs are the way they are.  In doing so, a Modernist frame of reference is appropriated.

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