Love and Its Concretions

Volume 2 ~ 2004

»Table of Contents

The Plunge in Mrs. Dalloway and the Book to Come

Mary Joe Hughes

In The Book to Come, Maurice Blanchot identifies an encounter or an image that drives the unfolding of a narrative from before its inception, yet can only be realized in the book to come, “in the sea that the work will have become, a limitless ocean.”1 This encounter extends beyond all the levels in which it occurs, all the moments in which one could place it. It lies before everything, and yet it is still to come. “Ulysses needed to live through the event . . to become Homer, who tells about him.”2 In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, it is not an encounter or an image that drives the narrative , it is a tribute to the animating principle of life itself. This loving tribute is expressed by the image of the plunge, encountered on the very first pages of the novel, when Clarissa Dalloway ‘plunges’ into London to buy the flowers for her party. “For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”3 The image of the plunge represents a beginning that is not a beginning, a motion that precedes the first page of the novel and extends beyond its pages, creating more life and more art. The plunge represents a surrender to the animating principle of life itself, a radiating interconnectedness that defies all rational structures and categories, overflowing all boundaries. That Michael Cunningham, in The Hours, continues the motion of the plunge in another novel that extends beyond its pages only underscores the limitless nature of this watery passage.

In Woolf’s novel Clarissa’s delighted plunge into the life of London in preparation for her party is accompanied by thoughts of death, an important clue to the boundary crossing nature of the plunge:

Or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home … part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best … but it spread ever so far, her life, herself .”4

This oceanic motion flows between people and the natural world, encompassing all in one ceaseless fabric that, as Clarissa felt, defies death. Or rather death may represent an entire release into unity with the world. The wavelike cadence of the passage itself reinforces Clarissa’s conviction, lending it force. And the very fact that these thoughts occur to Clarissa as she plunges into the “divine vitality” of the life of the city, the divine vitality that she loved, seems to imply a key connection between this vitality and death.

At the same time as Clarissa’s plunge into life expresses a buoyant confidence in the “ebb and flow of things,” even past death, it also links present to the past, as if the rippling circles suggested by the plunge had been set in motion much earlier. As Clarissa plunges into London to buy the flowers she recalls at the very same instant her plunge into the open air at Bourton at the age of eighteen, the time when she had loved Sally, and Richard Dalloway and Peter Walsh had courted her.5 Later Peter recalls Clarissa’s conviction, imparted to him at Bourton, that we live on in others:

since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting places after death … 6

Again, here, in the very cadence of the passage, we feel the oceanic motion of the plunge. In the very next paragraph after we encounter this belief of Clarissa’s in the thoughts of Peter Walsh, like a circle of water within a circle, we are privy to Peter’s recognition that “the effect of [his encounters with Clarissa over thirty years] was immeasurable. There was a mystery about it … She had influenced him more than any person he had ever known.”7 In this set of passages we have Clarissa’s thoughts become part of Peter’s, as her whole being had become part of his. In life then, as in death, the unseen parts of ourselves spread wide and live in others. Perhaps this is why for Clarissa parties are “an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom?”8 Perhaps this is why she felt called upon

when some effort, some call on her to be her self, drew the parts together, she alone knew how different, how incompatible and composed so for the world only into one centre, one diamond, one woman who sat in her drawing-room and made a meeting-point, a radiancy no doubt in some dull lives, a refuge for the lonely to come to perhaps … 9

Clarissa’s love of life prompts her to draw herself together in order to create points of “radiancy,” spreading the ripples wider. It is as if she must re-concentrate her already dispersed being in order to make this offering, an act which suggests that the divine vitality that she loves, while always in motion, overflowing the boundaries between life and death, nonetheless requires renewal. At least she is determined to assist in that renewal, a dedication that inspires her plunge:

“For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”10

If Clarissa’s offering is to “create it every moment afresh,” then the rippling motion of the plunge seems to be located neither solely in her own power nor solely elsewhere. This animating presence at the heart of things crosses that boundary too. Its mysterious vitality inspires her determination to join its widening circles. What is being suggested here is an ongoing process in which one individual’s being ripples out into others, drawing them from their isolation into something more general. In this vision, individual consciousness is a portal only, an avenue into something limitless and interwoven. Clarissa’s offering is to help further this “radiancy” through her parties.

It is ironic then that one of the influences upon her, one of the ripples that touches her profoundly is the plunge to his death of Septimus, the mad poet. This strange identification of Clarissa, the giver of parties, and Septimus, the shell-shocked soldier distraught by his visions, underscores the link between death and life suggested by the plunge and provides us with a clue about that connection. Here are two seemingly very different people who both on occasion recall the words of Shakespeare, and especially the lines from Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages11

The ambiguity of these lines is telling. They suggest the consolations of death, but, alternatively, the possibility of endurance or maturity that distances one from the “heat o’ the sun.” Here we have the parallel conditions of Septimus and Clarissa. Both of them experience the extreme danger and precariousness of life, the possibility of drowning,12 and both are associated with fire or conflagration.13 Yet Clarissa chooses endurance and Septimus self-destruction. We might consider these to be opposite responses, and in many ways of course they are, but when Clarissa ponders Septimus’ death by suicide, “she [feels] somehow very like him.”14 She considers his choice of death with penetrating sympathy, “A thing there was that mattered;” she thinks. “This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically evaded them …”15 It is as if Clarissa sees death as an attempt to protect what matters in life, a tribute, a lunge toward the central mystery, and a gesture to others. She feels this deeply, as she does her indebtedness to Septimus. “Had he plunged,” she wonders, “holding his treasure?”16 “He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.”17 Septimus’ effect on Clarissa is thus profound. His taking of his own life confirms her in her own devotion to life. Yet she also recognizes in him a kinship, as if both understand what must be preserved at all costs, something precious that must be guarded against all the forces that can create a kind of death in life, and ‘force the soul.’18 Both recognize that what really matters are those moments when the march of time, its presence repeatedly marked in Mrs. Dalloway by the ringing of Big Ben, bursts open, its relentless motion halted momentarily by some priceless illumination that rends the daily fabric. Septimus’s poetry, however haunted by the violence of war, expresses such moments as these:

The word ‘time’ split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time. He sang. Evans answered from behind the tree. The dead were in Thessaly, Evans sang, among the orchids. There they waited till the War was over, and now the dead, now Evans himself—19

Clarissa was not a poet like Septimus; she was another kind of artist. Yet she understood as he did something of these arresting illuminations,20 and knew that such moments must be preserved against the deadening march of the hours.21

“If it were now to die, ‘twere now to be most happy,” she thinks at Septimus’s death, as she had thought at an earlier time at Bourton preparing to meet Sally, on both occasions recalling Othello.22 The first time, at Bourton, when Sally kissed her, Clarissa “felt that she had been given a present, wrapped up, and told just to keep it, not to look at it—a diamond, something infinitely precious, wrapped up, which, as they walked (up and down, up and down), she uncovered, or the radiance burnt through, the revelation, the religious feeling!”23 This is what matters in life, not duration but these moments of precarious radiance, -- of love or beauty or fire and terror. Septimus’s death, she felt, was to protect this treasure. The separate responses of Septimus and Clarissa recall the lines of Nietzsche about tragedy, which teaches us “our great good fortune in having life not as individuals, but as part of the life force with whose procreative lust we have become one.”24 Each in a very different way plunges into this force, the power of which is intensified by the fact of death (and war) but never annihilated.

And their tribute to this force is in some ways the expression of a revelation, like Septimus’s haunted poetry or Clarissa’s effort to combine and create. By either means, some mysterious force renews its powers, washing all individual forms or beings into the Dionysian ebb and flow.

Where then can we isolate the moment that drives the whole of Mrs. Dalloway, the original encounter from which the narrative unfurls, and towards which it flows, as Blanchot has paradoxically expressed it in The Book to Come?25 Does it lie in Clarissa’s plunge into the open air at Bourton at the age of eighteen, or her later plunge into the life of the city, or Septimus’s plunge to his death? Or does it lie in the descent of Virginia Woolf herself, who has explained that she had “plunged” in writing her book “deep into the richest strata of my mind. I can write & write & write now: the happiest feeling in the world.”26 Or does it lie in some initial encounter with that mysterious power that inspired all these leaps into the radiating depths? Yet if that is so, why does Clarissa need to create it afresh? And why did Virginia Woolf, too, feel called upon “to create the whole thing afresh for myself each time?”27 And what is the role of Shakespeare, who inspired Woolf’s characters in their tribute to this mysterious force? This is an encounter that as

Blanchot has written, ”goes beyond all the levels in which it occurs, all the moments one wants to place it in.”28 Is it a matter of Ulysses bringing Homer into being to tell his story, or Homer Ulysses? It is impossible to say, when Clarissa and Septimus and Virginia Woolf and Othello and Shakespeare all participate in and help to preserve this animating power that overflows all boundaries, defying chronological time and all other rational constructs, with no beginning or end. All we know is that the circles of radiant life continue to widen and that literature and art, in defiance of death but under its shadow, accompany this watery process.

Just as it is difficult to locate the original event or feeling that prompts the plunge, it is impossible to reach the end of its motion. Michael Cunningham takes up these same themes in The Hours, including the oceanic interconnectedness between people, the life of one human spirit animating that of another, the permeable boundaries between life and death, and the burst bonds of time, and allows them to ripple out in wider and wider circles. This echoing and widening pattern, furthermore, takes up what is a relatively minor theme in Mrs. Dalloway, the sustaining role of literature in the lives of the characters, and expands its reach.

We will not concern ourselves here with the many ways in which The Hours both echoes and extends the narrative of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Let it suffice that the characters of the later novel recall those of the former. There is a woman named Clarissa plunging into the city to buy flowers for her party, and there is a crazed poet who plunges to his death. There are figures from the pasts of the characters, who resurface in recollection and again in person on the day of the party, thereby breaking open the novel’s temporal structure of a single day with a myriad journeys into the past. In both works there is a luncheon party to which Clarissa is not invited, and in both works Clarissa worries about the questionable influence of a strident ideologue over her daughter. But while The Hours contains a similar cast of characters to those of Mrs. Dalloway, and repeats the themes of love and death and time, Michael Cunningham does not simply ape the structure of Mrs. Dalloway and transpose it to New York in the late twentieth century. He highlights one of those radiant memories of Bourton in Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa’s youthful passion for Sally Seton, and expands its reach in the later novel, where Clarissa and Sally are lovers, and many of the main characters are gay. Furthermore, he brings to the foreground the role that literature plays in the lives of the characters, extending the ripples in the water.

The role of literature is introduced very early in The Hours in relation to the plunge. The novel begins with the plunge to her death of Virginia Woolf, yet it derives its life from the novel that Woolf had written. Cunningham clearly recognized what the readers of Shakespeare would know about the repeated lines from Cymbeline that echo in the thoughts of Septimus and Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages

Imogen, over whom they are singing, is only apparently dead, and at the end of the play the audience witnesses her seemingly miraculous return. Similarly, The Hours begins with the death of Virginia Woolf, yet it demonstrates in the very lives of its characters the life of her spirit, what Woolf as a character in The Hours refers to as her ‘second self’:

If she were religious, she would call it the soul. It is more than the sum of her intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three. It is an inner faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it is made of the same substance, and when she is very fortunate she is able to write directly through that faculty.29

It is Woolf’s plunge into her second self, into the heart of this mystery, which spreads wide the circles in the water.

We see the effect on Laura Brown. Laura is a character in The Hours who has no exact counterpart in Mrs. Dalloway, except in so far as she is a reader of literature, like Septimus and Clarissa Dalloway, and she is married to a soldier, like Rezia. But Laura does not read Shakespeare; she reads Mrs. Dalloway. And as she reads, preferring the book to the life she is leading, she marvels at Woolf’s ability to create such beauty despite the author’s own demons.30 Laura lingers over the lush language of the novel, pausing over one sentence in particular:

For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.”31

This is Clarissa Dalloway’s response to life. She loves it, and her expression of that love is to create. As we have seen, Clarissa’s creativity lies is her efforts to bring “radiancy” into the lives of others. Through the medium of literature, Laura is nourished by this fictive woman’s efforts to create a world, as she is, on another ontological level, by Woolf’s. Author and character, in their different ways, are inspired and prompted by “the animating mysteries of the world,”32 a disposition to which Laura responds.

For though Laura visits the antechamber of death in the hotel room, nearly taking her own life, reading Mrs. Dalloway helps her to overcome despair. Marshalling a measure of the spirit of Clarissa Dalloway, Laura assumes her part in the ongoing creation of life.

Because the war is over, the world has survived, and we are here, all of us, making homes, having and raising children, creating not just books or paintings but a whole world—a world…where men who have seen horrors beyond imagining, who have acted bravely and well, come home to lighted windows, to perfume, to plates and napkins.33

This passage represents Laura’s thoughts (indirectly narrated), clearly nourished by the novel she is reading, in which the re-creation of life after the devastation of war is a central theme. It also prompts us to recall the moment in Mrs. Dalloway in which Peter recalls Clarissa’s convictions that the unseen part of us “might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting places after death…”34 Here in Laura’s thoughts, the unseen parts of Clarissa Dalloway and of Virginia Woolf do indeed live on.

Laura’s task is to create a world for her children, and for a soldier who has come home from the war. And it is noteworthy that in the earlier novel there are soldiers who do not survive the war, including Evans and (eventually) Septimus, but in this novel there is a soldier who does survive. For Laura Brown as well as for civilization itself, this is a moment, like that of London after the Great War, of rebirth after a kind of death. Part of that regeneration in The Hours is Laura’s attempt to remake the world for her family, including the son of the soldier who survived, young Richie Brown, who is described as “rescued, resurrected, transported by love.”35 Richie knows as a very young boy that without his mother, “there is no world at all.”36 His mother, invigorated by Mrs. Dalloway and strengthened by a kiss that transcends despair, assists in its creation for him. Love and literature both accompany the ongoing recreation of life.

By the end of the novel, we realize of course that this child grows up to become another poet and writer, Richard Worthington Brown, whose work may help to sustain the lives of his readers as Woolf’s has done, overflowing the boundary between literature and life. Despite this legacy, Richard eventually succumbs to the attractions of death, like Septimus and Woolf before him. But before that moment, Richard achieves stature as a poet and novelist, his work featuring among others the figure of his mother as well as Clarissa, his one-time lover. His love for both women, always shadowed by the threat of loss, has clearly invested Richard’s work with some of its creative power, just as Laura’s experience of the kiss, what Clarissa Dalloway calls “radiance,”37 helps to sustain her attempts to recreate life for her family. Love and radiance flow into literature just as literature flows into more literature and back into life. All participate in “the sea that the work will have become, a limitless ocean.”38

“One of these days Mrs. Brown will be caught,” Woolf wrote in 1923, describing the longing of the writer to capture in words a single ordinary being. “The capture of Mrs. Brown will be the next chapter in the history of literature, and, let us prophesy again, that chapter will be one of the most important the most illustrious, the most epoch-making of them all.”39 By referring to Richard’s poetry about his mother, Mrs. Brown, Cunningham is delineating a process of literary generativity. Just as the animating power of an individual’s life radiates out to others in a movement suggested by the plunge, so does the animating power of literature, thereby nourishing through fiction the creation of more life.

In order to illustrate and extend this process of re-creation and renewal, The Hours must illuminate its intermediary stages. Cunningham achieves this effect by ricocheting back and forth between the story of Woolf’s life, the story of the life of Laura Brown, and the story of (Cunningham’s) Clarissa and Richard Brown, three generations of ripples in the water. One detail he does not include from the life of the real Virginia Woolf concerns her reference to the experience of writing Mrs. Dalloway, where she described having plunged “deep into the richest strata of my mind.”40 Cunningham leaves out this observation because the point is implicit. This self-renewing cycle associated with the plunge is always already present in the past.

It is important to note, however, that death by suicide looms over all three stories delineated in The Hours, just as it looms over Clarissa’s party. One such death is depicted at the beginning of the novel and another punctuates its climax. Both the drowning of Virginia Woolf and the plunge to his death of Richard Brown are inspired in part by these writers’ inability to endure the relentless march of the hours, the deadening quality that attacks the soul.41 And yet The Hours ends unambiguously in affirmation, when the second Clarissa reflects on her “great good fortune” to be alive, as if at a party that we all leave one by one. For death, too, has an animating power that helps to sustain the connection of others to life. Just as we see this mystery in the effect of Septimus’ death on Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway, we discover something similar at work in the last chapter of The Hours, after Richard’s suicidal plunge to his death while suffering from AIDS. It is his death that prompts (Cunningham’s) Clarissa to ponder the effect of mortality, surrounded as she is at that moment by the abandoned fragments of her party and the flowers that in both novels represent both life and death. She realizes that she and the others will one day vanish to join Richard in the realms of the dead, and also that most books will vanish with them. But “there’s just this for consolation,” she thinks, “an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.”42

These times when our lives burst open, these moments of radiance, are intensified by death and renewed through literature. As readers we do not simply observe this process; we experience it. In us there lives on the spirit of the dead writer Woolf, and those of her creations, who were sometime readers, sustained by Shakespeare. Joining this company is a new reader in The Hours, Laura Brown, who is sustained by Woolf and who nurtures the life of another writer, Richard Brown. Both of these characters clearly repeat aspects of Michael Cunningham’s own experience of Mrs. Dalloway. In turn, we the readers of Michael Cunningham’s work are nourished by the writers and readers and characters before us, who pass mysteriously from literature into our lives. Just as we see in the novel the permeable membrane that separates life from art, as when the details of the lives of the writers enter into the sustaining realm of fiction, or the details of fiction enter the lives of the characters, so that process continues in our own lives. Death both underscores the precious nature of this mysterious passage, and is overcome in ongoing creation.43

Blanchot has suggested that the encounter or event that drives the unfolding of a narrative is in some sense limitless. It extends beyond all the moments in which one could place it. Though it exists before the beginning of the work, it is always unfolding “in the sea that the work will have become, a limitless ocean.”44 He is describing the properties of narrative. “Narrative is not the relating of an event but this event itself, the approach of this event, the place where it is called on to unfold, an event still to come, by the magnetic power of which the narrative itself can hope to come true.”45 Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours both reinforce through the image of the plunge the idea that narrative is a limitless ocean, unfurling in wave after wave. Both make clear that the process is always already in motion, yet still ongoing. Cunningham even indicates through one of the epigraphs to The Hours that this process will never end. He quotes Borges, that acolyte of the infinite:

We’ll hunt for a third tiger now, but like the others this one too will be a form of what I dream, a structure of words, and not the flesh and bone tiger that beyond all myths paces the earth. I know these things quite well, yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me in this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest, and I go on pursuing through the hours another tiger, the beast not found in verse.46

We know that for Borges the tiger stood as a symbol of the perfection that the writer is denied, even in dreams.47 Yet instead of perfection there is “some force” driving the artist onward in “this vague, unreasonable, ancient quest,” which he goes on pursuing “through the hours.” Borges, with his infinite labyrinth of mirrors, knew that the writer’s quest will never be entirely realized, and Cunningham signals that awareness too. There is always more.

But ultimately, the plunge in Mrs. Dalloway, as repeated in The Hours, is saying something different from Blanchot in The Book to Come. Blanchot’s focus is primarily on writing, on literature. It is the sirens’ song. This song that Ulysses encounters, he writes, is “the presence of a song only still to come.”48 Ulysses has to become Homer to bring this song into being, a song that tells about Ulysses.49 It is an endless circle, from the sirens’ song to the Homeric song that brings it into being. Even the initial encounter is with a song, suggesting that it is not life itself that calls forth the narrative, but art. While the distinction between language and life may be as porous for Blanchot as it is for his contemporary, Derrida, nonetheless, the focus in The Book to Come is on language and literature.50 It is imaginary time that breaks all the boundaries between past and present, what is before, and what is to come. This imaginary time is the focus, not life itself.

The case is different in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours. Narrative in these novels does not simply proceed within its own infinite circle. It flows directly into the lives of its readers, and characters who are readers. Even though some of these readers become writers themselves, their lives flowing back into literature, neither novelist seems to foreground the act of writing so much as the mystery and beauty of life itself, in the face of death. Death and love, the experience of terror or of radiance, the infusion of one person’s spirit in the life of another, these are the portals to that mysterious realm which bursts the bonds of time. These are what prompt the plunge into the animating power of life itself. The plunge signifies a surrendering to that power, a loving tribute to all that is most precious in life. From this descent the circles radiate, as one spirit animates another. Each novel serves as an offering to this animating principle and joins its limitless depth.




Footnotes

  1. Maurice Blanchot, The Book to Come, trans. Charlotte Mandell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 7-8. From Le Chant des Sirnes, pp. 9-19 in Le livre venir (Paris:Gallimard, 1959), 16.
  2. Ibid., 6.
  3. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, foreword (1981) by Maureen Howard (San Diego, New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1925), 3.
  4. Ibid., 9.
  5. Ibid., 3.
  6. Ibid., 153.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 122.
  9. Ibid. 37.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., 30, 139, 186.
  12. Ibid., 8, 139, 142.
  13. Ibid., 5, 66, 141, 143, 168, 184.
  14. Ibid., 186.
  15. Ibid., 184.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid., 186.
  18. Ibid., 184-85.
  19. Ibid., 69-70.
  20. See, for example, 32, 35-36.
  21. Ibid., 184.
  22. Ibid., 35, 184.
  23. Ibid., 35-36.
  24. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy in The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Francis Golffing (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1956), 103.
  25. Blanchot, esp. pp. 5-9.
  26. Quoted in the forward to Mrs. Dalloway by Maureen Howard (copyright 1981), xi.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Blanchot, 8.
  29. Michael Cunningham, The Hours (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 34-35
  30. Cunningham, 41.
  31. Quoted in Cunningham., 41.
  32. Cunningham, 34-35.
  33. Ibid., 42.
  34. Woolf, 153.
  35. Cunningham, 44.
  36. Ibid., 192.
  37. Woolf, 35-36.
  38. Blanchot, 8.
  39. Essays of Virginia Woolf: Vol. III, 1919-1923, ed. Andrew McNeillie, (San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), 338.
  40. Quoted by Maureen Howard in the foreword to Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, xi.
  41. Cunningham, 167-72, 195-200.
  42. Cunningham, 225. Note that Stephen Daldrys film version of The Hours transposes this reflection from its place at the end of the novel to an earlier scene, and ends with a repeated image of Woolfs suicide. Both changes substantially alter the tone of the novel, which continually counters despair and tragedy with the affirmation of life.
  43. For informing my treatment of the themes of death and literature I owe a general debt to J. Hillis Miller, "Mrs. Dalloway: Repetition as the Raising of the Dead," in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, ed. with an introduction by Harold Bloom (New York, New Haven, Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1988), 79-101.
  44. Blanchot, 8.
  45. Ibid., 6.
  46. J. L. Borges, "The Other Tiger" 1960, cited in the epigraph of The Hours. See also Borges Dreamtigers, copyright 1964, trans. Mildred Boyer and Harold Morland (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 70- 71.
  47. Alberto Manuel, An Endless Happiness: How Borges throws open the doors of the Universal Library, Times Literary Supplement (18 Feb. 2000) 12-13.
  48. Blanchot, 9.
  49. Blanchot, 6.
  50. My friend and colleague Vanessa Rumble helped me to see this point much more clearly.