Our Separate Drops: A Neurological Look at the Narrative of the Self and Moments of Being in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves




McNickle, Scott Deacon

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The purpose of this paper is to provide a cognitive literary reading of Woolf’s depiction of the developing consciousness of her six central characters in The Waves, thereby establishing a plausible neurological explanation for how the individuated sense of self develops through life experience and private interpretation of the external environment. Woolf methodically demonstrates how the body identifies its spatiotemporal relationship to the external world, indirectly describing how the body’s sensory systems interpret its surroundings and incorporates the amassed subjective impressions into a narrative structure. The narrative of the self then reaffirms its existence through its episodic memory, which subsequently influences its selective and subjective perception of the external world. It is only by establishing a feasible construction of the self’s boundaries that Woolf can illustrate the gulf between the private sense of self and the other, which she then transcends into a state of unity during the brief periods of heightened consciousness she termed “moments of being.”



Consciousness, Self, Neurology, The Waves, Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being