Ann Banfield – Remembrance and Tense Past (from C. Comp. 2007)

Distinguishes between two tense involved in novelistic discourse: the narrative sentence that recounts events independent of a subject, and free indirect discourse, or represented thought, representing third person subjectivity (51). Subjectivity, in a novel like Dalloway, is represented as a “now in the past.” This division is possible only in the novel, because it is the only genre that distances itself from the structure of spoken communication.

Joyce’s phrase “aorist preterite proposition” characterizes this “objective” time outside of the subject. It is apparent in Ithaca, but also in the bracketed sections in Time Passes section of To the Lighthouse. According to Banfield, “Modernit experimentation strips away everything superfluous to the measuring of time’s passing” (52). The urban becomes a refuge for the “now in the past” of the subject: they stand in for point-of-view: the multiplication of points of “time-space.” Thus in the opening scene of Dalloway, we see the time of Clarissa contrasting with the time of Big Ben, the pause before the sounding of the clock registering subjective time as pure freedom. Clarissa’s “now in the past” can also include memory itself (she is simultaneously Clarissa of that moment and Clarissa as a little girl). Jacob Room limits to subject impression of the moment: Dalloway and Lighthouse limit to impressions that include the past itself. This connects to the famous “cave” metaphor that Woolf uses to describe modes of characterization: digging out the inner lives of characters to the extent that those caves create a network of connections.

Banfield believes that represented thought in the past is able to convey the moment in which history could have been otherwise just as it is congealing into history.





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