Traces of a tyger: the literary archetype of madness in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway, through Clarissa Dalloway’s and other parallel stories, presents us with the situation of Septimus Warren Smith, a war hero who suffers shell-shock and that due to his apparent madness is victim of constant threats from two physicians who want to put him away because of his mental crises. He, in an attempt to preserve his soul from the terrible embrace of human nature, decides to kill himself before he is arrested. Taking into account this information, the topic of this thesis will be the treatment of madness in Mrs Dalloway, understanding the figure of the mad person as a literary archetype which is repeated with some consistency in English Literature, from classical to contemporary texts. The main focus will be the development of the figure of Septimus as a visionary poet, a modernist figure analogous to William Blake who, with his visionary poetic/pictorial work, drew the paths to the following romantic company. A comparison will be drawn between the two poets taking into account the evolution of the visionary poet from its pre-romantic sphere to the modernist shadow of a mad person, showing that madness suffers transformations from the ancient Greece to modernist times. One of the sub-topics will be the conception of nature in contrast to human nature, and how they seem to be components of a dichotomy that cannot be dissolved. My intention is to work on madness as a literary archetype, along with an examination of the mad person within the context of a modernist novel where it is manifest in the figure of the visionary poet. I will try to see how this has changed from the Platonic perspective of divine madness to the segregation and punishment of the Classic Epoch, and finally to our modern(ist) sensibility. Tentatively, the social apprehension towards the mad person would affect its characterisation in Mrs Dalloway, in which a post-war fragmented society is presented.