Virginia Woolf lived at a time when the twentieth century’s early upheavals seemed to demand new approaches and forms of expression. Writing in her diary in the midst of composing To the Lighthouse in 1925, she reflects that ‘I have an idea that I will invent a new name for my books to supplant ‘novel’. A new _____ by Virginia Woolf. But what? Elegy?’1 Significantly, Woolf’s evocation of elegy shapes the form and some of the major concerns of two of her novels, To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway, fusing her desire to make it new with the elegy’s preoccupation with the past, absence and loss. While some studies have considered Woolf’s adaptation of elegy with respect to its formal features, there has been a shift in recent Woolf criticism to consider the secular elegiac mode that emphasises the vicissitudes of time, silence and narrative separations in perspective. As a text that is written as a kind of suspended parallel narrative, her novels deal with fragmentary recollection and problems attendant on return and survival in the wake of the Great War.
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