Historical Context of To the Lighthouse

Historical Influences
To the Lighthouse
Post Impressionist
•Began in the Late 19th
Century in France, it did
not reach Britain until 1910
•Shift from focus on the
Exterior Experience to the
Interior Experience
•Artists such as Georges
Seurat, Paul Cezanne , and
Vincent Van Gogh led this
•New Style created focus in
other areas than art such
as Scientific Research and
Increasing Psychological
Research on the Individual
Post-Impressionist Movement cont.
• Roger Fry(1866-1934) Close Friend of Virginia Woolf
• “Manet and the Post-Impressionists” Exhibit
• Argued the new Post-Impressionist way of painting.
“These artists do not seek to give what can, after all, be
but a pale reflex of actual appearance, but to arouse
the conviction of a new and definite reality. They do
not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to
imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life” (Fry in
Spalding, p. 39)
• These ideas worked there way to Literary areas.
Woolf’s To The Lighthouse was a Literary experiment in
this form
The Great War (World War I)
• The most unforgettable historical event influencing
Woolf’s To The Lighthouse
• War raged on throughout Europe between 1914-1918
• The Effects of the War resonated through Literature as
bitterness and alienation in the assessment of the war
• Woolf also participates in this assessment. The 2nd
part of To The Lighthouse “Time Passes” with her own
description of the effects and ways things were during
the war
• Post-World War I literature began breaking older
traditions of literature
The Bloomsbury Group
• Created around 1904 this group made up of Virginia
Woolf, her husband Leonard Woolf(1880-1969) and
other authors and artists of the time such as Lytton
Strachey(1880-1932), E.M. Forster(1879-1970), Art
Critic Roger Fry(1866-1934) and many more.
• The Bloomsbury Group rejected the prudishness and
valued expressionism and personal judgment
• The Bloomsbury Group had produced works from
topics spanning from Psychology to Economics. They
produced paintings, biographies, novels, criticisms etc.
Autobiographical Influences
• Virginia Woolf used many parts of her own history
represented in her novels. In To The Lighthouse she uses
many of these autobiographical influences.
• In To The Lighthouse she uses her father, Leslie
Stephen(1832-1904) a Victorian Intellectual who became
the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography as basis
for the personality of Mr. Ramsey.
• She uses her mother, Julia Duckworth Stephen(1846-1905)
as the basis of Mrs. Ramsey’s character. She incorporates
her mother’s beauty and solicitude into the character.
• She is also influenced by a vacation home at Talland in an
English Southern town of St. Ives, Cornwall where The
Stephen family would vacation during the summer.
• Price, Danielle E., and Michelle N. McEvoy. "To the
Lighthouse." Literature and Its Times Supplement 1:
Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the
Historical Events that Influenced Them. Joyce Moss.
Vol. 1: Ancient Times to the Harlem Renaissance
(Beginnings-1920s). Detroit: Gale, 2003. 463-472. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 May. 2011.
• "The Importance of the Work." To the Lighthouse: The
Marriage of Life and Art. Alice van Buren Kelley.
Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987. 5-7. Twayne's
Masterwork Studies 11. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
Web. 2 May. 2011.