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The Phantom Table


  • 8 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 452 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.593 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521034036)

Virginia Woolf identified the influence on her work of 'the Cambridge Apostles', the philosophical society which counted G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and much of male Bloomsbury among its members, as one more 'capable of description' than 'the influence of my mother'. In this major study of Woolf's relationship to Bloomsbury and the aesthetic and philosophical developments of her time, Ann Banfield subjects that influence to a full treatment. The theory of knowledge Moore and Russell formulated, Banfield argues, profoundly affected Woolf's conception of reality, as it did Roger Fry's theory of Post-Impressionism, one source for Woolf's transformations of philosophical principles into aesthetic ones. The Phantom Table is a magisterial account of Woolf's engagement with this remarkable trinity of thinkers: Moore, Russell, Fry. It revises the epistemology of modernism, reconceiving the relation between realism and formalism to account for Woolf's dual reality of sense impressions and logical forms.

• Major reappraisal of the philosophical and aesthetic foundation of Virginia Woolf's work, providing a full analysis of her engagement with the theories of G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and Roger Fry • Offers an interesting account of the forces that made 'Bloomsbury' • Challenges contemporary understanding of modernism


List of illustrations; Preface; List of abbreviations; 1. Introduction: table talk; Part I. Subject and Object and the Nature of Reality: 2. The geometry in the sensible world: Russell's analysis of matter; 3. The world seen without a self: Woolf's analysis of matter; 4. Solus ipse, alone in the universe; 5. The dualism of death; Part II. Principia Aesthetica: 6. Fry's granite and rainbow: post-impressionism and impressionism; 7. How to describe the world seen without a self?; 8. The modern elegy; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


'Ann Banfield has written a book of great size in every respect. Large in ambition, vast in research, commanding in its control of many difficult texts and many formidable arguments, it will become a major resource not only for Woolf scholarship, but for all those interested in modernist studies. This book is a major achievement.' Michael Levenson

'Ann Banfield's book is simply the finest interdisciplinary work in any language I am aware of comparing a writer with the philosophical domain of Modernism - it is a triumph of interdisciplinary method, offering exact, lucid comparisons, and presenting us with a picture of Woolf more tough-minded, rigorous, objective and sane than any previous picture.' Daniel Albright

'[The Phantom Table's] importance extends beyond its historical account of Woolf's aesthetics, for in tracing the dance of ideas among Woolf, Russell and Fry, Banfield offers a fresh perspective on both the problem of the subject in twentieth-century thought and art and Bloomsbury's philosophical and creative solutions …' Women's Review of Books

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