Why is To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, considered a classic?

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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The novel 'To The Lighthouse' by Virginia Woolf is considered a classic because not only was it ground-breaking and arresting when it was published, it has also stood the test of time and remains a beacon of it's kind- one that illuminates literature,and feminist literature,today.

It is quite something for any novelist,such as James Joyce, to throw deeply-held traditions and rules of writing out of the window, but he was a man. He pulled it off because of his education, genius,status and contacts, but for a woman to do this innovative work at a time of limited opportunities for women was even more remarkable.

Some of Woolf's brave innovations were a fairly new style of narrative called 'stream-of-consciousness' also experimented with by James Joyce. She also tackled thorny and controversial subjects such as the consideration of whether marriage was in fact the best role for every woman. Woolf was not afraid of broaching philosophy and social comment in her works, as some women had been before her.


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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Virginia Woolf's novel To The Lighthouse was published in the year 1927-- 5 years after the seminal 1922 which saw the publication of James Joyce's novel Ulysses and T.S.Eliot's poem Waste Land. This was the high tide of European Modernism and Woolf's text is supposed to complete the contours of this newly emerging Modernist art and literature. It is a Modernist classic, a masterpiece.

Apart from bringing in the missing feminine angle in Modernist literature, more than Joyce or Eliot, Woolf's work represented a historical transition--from Victorianism to Modernism. To The Lighthouse is a classic also because of its perfecting of the 'stream of consciousness' or the 'interior monlogue' technique, giving birth to the modern psychological novel in a big way. Narrative perspective is another area where Woolf experiments with multiple and shifting points of view.  Temporal leaps, fluid identities, the calm of subjectivity and its conflict with the clamours of history, the problem of the artist, especially when a woman, in the society, the solitude and death in all their forces mingling with an out of the world landscape of Hebrides--all this make the novel haunting in every word.

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