Thank you for sharing this. It is what I believe to be ‘writing as therapy’ as I recently suggested in one of my posts. Virginia Woolf is no exception.
The comment, which I believe to be to the point, made me want to have a quick look on Woolf’s view on Freud. (I deliberately say quick look, because I know this theme could easily become a subject for a thesis of considerable length …)
But my quick look first led me to a text by Julia Briggs (2006)
In her text Briggs points to both similarities and differences between Freud & Woolf.
Alix Strachey, a practising psychoanalyst and an old friend of the Woolfs, discussing why Leonard had not persuaded Virginia to see a psychoanalyst about her mental breakdowns, concluded ‘Virginia’s imagination, apart from her artistic creativeness, was so interwoven with her fantasies – and indeed with her madness – that if you had stopped the madness you might have stopped the creativeness too…
It may be preferable to be mad and be creative than to be treated by analysis and become ordinary.’ So whether art is regarded as transcendental and impersonal or as autobiographical in its genesis, the artist’s integrity seemed threatened by psychoanalysis.
What Woolf did in her literature, say for example in To the Lighthouse, is very similar to the things Freud did in therapy – but Woolf is on several occasions stressing that she has no knowledge of psychoanalysis.
A way to understand this then, is to see these two writers as developing similar comprehensions on personality and inner life – explored from different point of views.
Commenting on the composition of To the Lighthouse, Woolf observed that, before writing it, she had been obsessed with her mother. She had written the novel ‘very quickly; and when it was written:
I ceased to be obsessed by my mother. I no longer hear her voice; I do not see her. … I suppose that I did for myself what psycho-analysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest.
According to her diary Woolf began reading Freud in 1939, after his death. But his thoughts had of course reached her long before, through Leonard & the Bloomsburys.
Between them, Freud and Woolf create an ongoing dialogue about the relations between thought, art, and life – a dialogue which can be read into all Woolf’s work …
sketcher, reader, writer