The Incandescent Mind: A Study of Light in the Works of Charles Dickens & Virginia Woolf




Gilmour, Grace

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From antiquity up until the twenty-first century, light has served as a symbol to convey a wide variety of abstract themes, which often hold a morally positive connotation. The morally positive association of light is evidenced as early as Genesis. In Genesis 1, God declares, “Let there be light,” and when “God saw that the light was good… [He] separated the light from the darkness.” By the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century, light no longer held such a strong association with pure divinity or God Himself. The growing industrialization in England created a world in which artificial light grew increasingly prevalent in daily life. Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf react to this industrialization by depicting light in their works. By investigating the use of light by Charles Dickens in Hard Times and David Copperfield and by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse, it becomes clear that light is used to illustrate the cultivation of the emotional capacities, such as wonder and compassion, as well as the cultivation of Woolf’s androgynous, disinterested, and incandescent mind.