Between the Acts

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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The last novel of V. Woolf, published shortly after her death in 1941. It has been seen as her final statement on art as the transforming and unifying principle of life.

The action takes place at a middle‐sized country house, Poyntz Hall, the home of the Oliver family, and Woolf's central metaphor is the enacting of a village pageant, which aspires to portray nothing less than the sweep of English history, by means of songs, tableaux, parody, pastiche, etc.; it ends by presenting the audience its own mirror‐image, in the present, as a megaphoned voice demands how civilization could be built by ‘orts, scraps and fragments like ourselves?’ The pageant is directed by the sexually ambiguous Miss la Trobe, who represents the ever‐dissatisfied artist, and its scenes are interwoven with scenes in the lives of the audience; together, the illusion and the reality combine as a communal image of rural England, past and present—‘a rambling capricious but somehow unified whole’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).

Reference entries

Virginia Woolf (1882—1941) writer and publisher