Art Consciousness and Spirit in Times of War

Today we explored Virginia Woolf (“The Mark on the Wall”), T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” and Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”. These are three amazing modernist authors who, in the shadow of war (both the First and Second World Wars) were trying to find a way through to some personal or spiritual certainty. Their creative explorations take their readers deep into questions about what it is to be human. This first audio lecture covers each of these authors in turn:

The tutorials focussed largely on the closing scene of Katherine Mansfield’s amazing story of a near breakthrough into a new consciousness. Here are our discussions together with images of the white board which was fed by the discussions:

– Click on the images to enlarge them:

In this tutorial we didn’t cover quite as much ground, but we explored with more intensity some of the core symbolic images used by Mansfield:


Here are some thoughts that flow from today’s session:

Virginia Woolf T.S. Eliot & Katherine Mansfield

Today we explored the ways in which these three early 20th Century authors used their creative gifts to delve deep into their own consciousness and into that of their characters. The two daughters in “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” suddenly find themselves freed from the patriarchal and imperialist shackles of their father and yet are unable to find the energy or the way through to a true expression of their essential nature. Mansfield presents this story I feel because she is illustrating how we are all so conditioned by the circumstances of our families and environments and how for all of us this quest for the almost ineffable breath of truth is not so easily reached. “Eyeep, eep” cry the baby sparrows on the window ledge and it is the souls of the daughters -and our souls- that are expressing their sense of the difficulty of what it is to be born anew!

Baby sparrows cry out from a nest in Russia's city of Vladikavkaz

Virginia Woolf is similarly trying to find a way through the tyranny of a patriarchal, imperialist society that gives limited room for women to grow creatively. The essay ends with a tragic moment where the husband (presumably) breaks the spell of the narrator’s revery and plunges her back into the so-called “real” world.

T.S. Eliot is less concerned with personal experience. It seems he is on a quest to experience and capture in words moments of transcendence when the mundane world is transformed and in which the destructive power of fire is also seen in its creative aspect.

Blog Topics for this week might include

*Take any line from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” and use this as a starting point for your own reflections on Time and on Life as a Journey.

*Try to write a paragraph in the style of Virginia Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall”. Try to set up your own physical situation where you are prompted into associative thinking and stream of consciousness.

*Write a sort paragraph describing how Kathleen Mansfield is able to take us inside her character’s experience. How does she invest real moments with so much symbolic significance.

*Remember you can always create your own topic drawing on this week’s readings and on your own experience.

*Remember also to complete your weekly peer review and copy and paste it into your own journal after submitting it to your peer.




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