Time as protagonist in To the Lighthouse

Paul Sheehan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Modernism’s lasting influence – as an object of scholarly analysis and as a conspicuous cultural phenomenon – belies the fact that it established itself as an art of failure. This was not a measure of its weaknesses, however, but of its ambition: The urge to overreach, to give voice to the unspeakable, to convey intuitions and processes that seem to lie beyond language. Whether tracking the movement of consciousness in all its waywardness and caprice or peering beneath the veneer of civilization to see what primal unrest lurks there, modernist objectives often are defined by their unattainability. But perhaps the most quixotic of these strivings for the elusive or impossible was the attempt to recalibrate time, to find new forms of periodicity and new narrative rhythms within traditional storytelling practices. In pursuit of this audacious agenda, an enduring strand of modernist fiction concerned itself with the development of alternate temporalities – first recognizing the fractured, discontinuous, and spontaneous nature of experience and then devising suitable techniques for mapping the lineaments of thought itself rather than follow the dictates of rectilinear logic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to To the Lighthouse
EditorsAllison Pease
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781107280342
ISBN (Print)9781107052086
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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