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Woolf, Keynes, and the Compulsion to Consume

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Abstract

In this chapter, Comyn analyses Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) and John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), revealing how both writers confront the dissolution of the British Empire and its consequences for homo economicus. Determined to question how economics functions in actual, everyday life, both writers portray the complexities and limitations of economic theory. Comyn argues that these texts show the significance of the empathic imagination for tracing the socio-economic relationships of individuals within a community, especially those individuals occupying the margins of society. Studying the implications of time on human interactions, expectations and actions, and the imperfectability of equations—whether psychological or mathematical—this chapter demonstrates homo economicus’ incorporation within the particular, and the general, of post-WWI society.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Virginia Woolf, JMK, 1933 Holograph. Articles, essays, fiction and reviews, vol. 7, Virginia Woolf Collection of Papers, Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  2. 2.

    S. P. Rosenbaum, ed., The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs and Commentary, Revised ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 272–273.

  3. 3.

    Woolf, JMK.

  4. 4.

    John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money 1936 (London: Macmillan for the Royal Economic Society, 1974), 3. Unless otherwise stated, all subsequent references are to this edition.

  5. 5.

    As Hermione Lee argues, “Though [Woolf] still takes every opportunity in the diary to write biographical sketches of “great men (much more frequently than of great women)—Keynes, Eliot, Sickert, Yeats, Arnold Bennett, Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells—these sketches are irrelevant, personal, revealing, quite the opposite of the DNB.” Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London: Chatto & Windus, 1996), 8.

  6. 6.

    Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway Holograph, 1922, Holograph, Microfilm, Manuscript 19 in reel 6, Virginia Woolf Collection of Papers, Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  7. 7.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway Holograph.

  8. 8.

    Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, intro. Carol Ann Duffy and Valentine Cunningham (1925, London, Vintage, 2000), 1.

  9. 9.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 18.

  10. 10.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 56–57.

  11. 11.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 2.

  12. 12.

    John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920; Online Library of Liberty), 238, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/303#Keynes_0550_391.

  13. 13.

    Keynes, The Economic Consequences, 298.

  14. 14.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 2.

  15. 15.

    Carol Ann Duffy, introduction to Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf (London: Vintage Press, 2000), xiv.

  16. 16.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 11–12.

  17. 17.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 104.

  18. 18.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 372–374.

  19. 19.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 377–378.

  20. 20.

    Mark Hussey, “Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Woolf”, Modern Fiction Studies 50, no. 1 (2004): 10.

  21. 21.

    Michael Tratner, Modernism and Mass Politics: Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Yeats (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 3.

  22. 22.

    Tratner, Modernism and Mass Politics, 10.

  23. 23.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 32–33.

  24. 24.

    Paul Krugman, “How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled”, New York Review of Books, 6 June 2013, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2013/06/06/how-case-austerity-has-crumbled/.

  25. 25.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 16–17.

  26. 26.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 380.

  27. 27.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 380.

  28. 28.

    Keynes argues: “The great puzzle of Effective Demand with which Malthus had wrestled vanished from economic literature. You will not find it mentioned even once in the whole works of Marshall , Edgeworth and Professor Pigou, from whose hands the classical theory has received its most mature embodiment.” Keynes, The General Theory, 32.

  29. 29.

    John Vaizey, “Keynes and the Cambridge Tradition”, in The End of the Keynesian Era: Essays on the Disintegration of the Keynesian Political Economy (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1977), 10.

  30. 30.

    John Maynard Keynes, “Alfred Marshall, 1842–1924”, The Economic Journal (September 1924): 364–365.

  31. 31.

    Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 8th ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1920. Rpt. Library of Economics and Liberty [Online]), I.IV.18, http://www.econlib.org/library/Marshall/marP.html.

  32. 32.

    Marshall, Principles of Economics, V.III.7.

  33. 33.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 20 n.1.

  34. 34.

    Keynes proceeds to quote from Marshall’s personal history: “From Metaphysics I went to Ethics, and thought that the justification of the existing condition of society was not easy. A friend, who had read a great deal of what are now called the Moral Sciences, constantly said: “Ah! if you understood Political Economy you would not say that.” So I read Mill’s Political Economy and got much excited about it. I had doubts as to the propriety of inequalities of opportunity, rather than of material comfort. Then, in my vacations I visited the poorest quarters of several cities and walked through one street after another, looking at the faces of the poorest people. Next, I resolved to make as thorough a study as I could of Political Economy.” Keynes, “Alfred Marshall”, 319.

  35. 35.

    Marshall, Principles of Economics, I.IV.17, V.III.22.

  36. 36.

    See, for example, Robert Skidelsky, “The Revolt against the Victorians”, in The End of the Keynesian Era: Essays on the Disintegration of the Keynesian Political Economy, ed. Robert Skidelsky (New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1977), 1–9.

  37. 37.

    Keynes, A Tract on Monetary Reform (London: Macmillan, 1923), 80 (emphasis in original).

  38. 38.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 145 (emphasis in original).

  39. 39.

    Keynes, “Alfred Marshall”, 322.

  40. 40.

    Marshall, Principles of Economics, I.IV.20.

  41. 41.

    See, for example, S. P. Rosenbaum, Victorian Bloomsbury (London: Macmillan Press, 1987)

  42. 42.

    Virginia Woolf to J. M. Keynes, 3 February 1921, Letters from Virginia Woolf to J. M. Keynes, Typescript, JMK/PP/45/353, John Maynard Keynes Papers, King’s College Library, University of Cambridge. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  43. 43.

    Virginia Woolf to J. M. Keynes, 17 May 1937, Letters from Virginia Woolf to J. M. Keynes, Typescript, JMK/PP/45/353, John Maynard Keynes Papers, King’s College Library, University of Cambridge. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  44. 44.

    Virginia Woolf to C. P. Sanger, 26 May 1925, in A Change of Perspective: The Letters of Virginia Woolf (1923–28), ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, vol. 3 (London: Hogarth Press, 1980).

  45. 45.

    Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, 27 May 1925, in A Change of Perspective: The Letters of Virginia Woolf (1923–28), ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, vol. 3 (London: Hogarth Press, 1980).

  46. 46.

    Hermione Lee notes that “Modern Fiction” is a “rewritten version” of “Modern Novels”, an essay first written in 1919. Lee argues that “‘Modern Novels’ sets up the terms for the representation of consciousness in fiction; ‘An Unwritten Novel’ [written in 1920 and published in Monday or Tuesday in 1921], the crucial turning-point between Night and Day and Jacob’s Room, shows how that experiment might work”. Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf, 405, 406.

  47. 47.

    Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction”, in The Common Reader (London: Hogarth Press, 1925), 190.

  48. 48.

    Woolf, “Modern Fiction”, 188–189.

  49. 49.

    Woolf, “Modern Fiction”, 189.

  50. 50.

    Melvin J. Friedman, Stream of Consciousness: A Study in Literary Method (New haven: Yale University Press, 1955), 189.

  51. 51.

    Woolf, “Modern Fiction”, 189.

  52. 52.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 1.

  53. 53.

    Mary Lyon suggests that Woolf was a better critic of her ancestors than her contemporaries. See, preface to Books and Portraits: Some Further Selections from the Literary and Biographical Writings of Virginia Woof, ed. Mary Lyon (London: Hogarth Press, 1977).

  54. 54.

    Rosenbaum, Victorian Bloomsbury, 21.

  55. 55.

    Lyon, preface to Books and Portraits, viii.

  56. 56.

    Lyon, preface to Books and Portraits, ix.

  57. 57.

    Tratner, Modernism and Mass Politics, 4.

  58. 58.

    See, for example, John Vaizey, “Keynes and the Cambridge Tradition”, 13.

  59. 59.

    Keynes, Treatise of Money Drafts, 1920, Manuscript, JMK/TM/3/1, The Papers of John Maynard Keynes, King’s Colleges Library, University of Cambridge.

  60. 60.

    Keynes, “Alfred Marshall”, 343–344.

  61. 61.

    John Maynard Keynes, Mill , The Spirit of the Age, 15 January 1943, Typescript, JMK/CO/3/170, The Papers of John Maynard Keynes, King’s College Library, University of Cambridge. Unpublished writings of J. M. Keynes copyright The Provost and Scholars of King’s College Cambridge 2018.

  62. 62.

    John Maynard Keynes, “Thomas Robert Malthus”, in Essays in Biography Volume X: The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes (1933; London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press: 1972), 84–85 (emphasis in original).

  63. 63.

    Woolf uses these terms in her discussion of women’s literary history in A Room of One’s Own (1929). Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, intro. Hermione Lee (London: Chatto & Windus, 1984), 102.

  64. 64.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 6–7.

  65. 65.

    Diane E. Henderson, Collaborations with the Past: Reshaping Shakespeare Across Time and Media (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 121.

  66. 66.

    Henderson, Collaborations with the Past, 121.

  67. 67.

    Henderson, Collaborations with the Past, 121.

  68. 68.

    “MRS. ASQUITH’S BOOK DENOUNCED BY PRESS; Called a ‘Mirage of Falsities and Fallacies Created by Blazing Egoism’”, New York Times, 5 November 1920, Special Cable, 15.

  69. 69.

    Virginia Woolf to Lady Asquith, n.d., Manuscript and Typescript, RP 3587, British Library Western Manuscripts. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  70. 70.

    Anna Snaith, “The Exhibition is in Ruins: Virginia Woolf and Empire (Southport: Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 2005), 3.

  71. 71.

    Virginia Woolf, “Thunder at Wembley”, in Selected Essays, ed. David Bradshaw (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 169.

  72. 72.

    Scott Cohen, “The Empire from the Street: Virginia Woolf, Wembley, and Imperial Monuments”, Modern Fiction Studies 50, no. 1 (2004): 86.

  73. 73.

    Cohen, “The Empire from the Street”, 87.

  74. 74.

    Susan Kingsley Kent, Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918–1932 (Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 64.

  75. 75.

    Kent, Aftershocks, 64.

  76. 76.

    Kathy J. Phillips notes that the dates of Amritsar Massacre coincide with Peter Walsh’s time in India and suggests that Lady Bruton: “With her red carnations… appears to be a delicate lady for whom knights like Dyer are performing their deeds. Yet, beneath her veneer, she is as aggressive as the trigger-happy Dyer”. Kathy Virginia Woolf against Empire (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994), 13. Although the dates are suggestive of the massacre, I would argue that the similarities between Lady Bruton and General Dyer do not extend much beyond the description that she “should have been a general of dragoons herself”. Her imperial propositions amount to sending young people to Canada and are quickly side-lined and dismissed with Hugh Whitbread’s remark that he “could not guarantee that the editor would put it in; but he would be meeting somebody at luncheon”. Lady Bruton’s martial heritage proves, therefore, to be as ineffectual as Peter Walsh’s pocket-knife. Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 92, 97.

  77. 77.

    Snaith, “The Exhibition is in Ruins”, 4.

  78. 78.

    Snaith, “The Exhibition is in Ruins” 7.

  79. 79.

    Snaith, “The Exhibition is in Ruins”, 4.

  80. 80.

    Leonard Woolf, Economic Imperialism (New York: H. Fertig, 1970), 15.

  81. 81.

    See, in particular, his account of Woodrow Wilson. Keynes, Economic Consequences of Peace, 5–6.

  82. 82.

    Woolf, “Thunder at Wembley”, 170.

  83. 83.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 17.

  84. 84.

    Recall Woolf’s notes: “She is to be a real character. He only real insofar as she sees him. Otherwise to exist in his view of things: which is always To be conflated with Mrs. Dalloways.” Mrs Dalloway Holograph.

  85. 85.

    Phillips, Virginia Woolf Against Empire, 1.

  86. 86.

    Phillips, Virginia Woolf Against Empire, 5, 8.

  87. 87.

    Phillips, Virginia Woolf Against Empire, 5.

  88. 88.

    Helen Carr, “Virginia Woolf, Empire and Race”, in The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf, ed. Sue Roe and Susan Sellers (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 201.

  89. 89.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 14.

  90. 90.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 161.

  91. 91.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 161.

  92. 92.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 61.

  93. 93.

    See, for example, Woolf’s earlier association of Walsh with Clarissa’s death as the bell tolls: “Then, as the sound of St. Margaret’s languished, he thought, She has been ill and the sound expressed languor and suffering. It was her heart, he remembered; and the sudden loudness of the final stroke tolled for death that surprised in the midst of life, Clarissa falling where she stood, in her drawing-room” (43). In fact, it is Septimus who the bells will, finally, toll for.

  94. 94.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 42.

  95. 95.

    Charles Hoffman, “From Short Story to Novel: The Manuscript Revisions of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’”, Modern Fiction Studies 14 (1968): 176.

  96. 96.

    “studious workmen” is added in the margins. See Virginia Woolf, Notebooks of Virginia Woolf. Vol I. (ff.II+150), “The hours?” (f.2); 27 June 1923 (f 2.)—aft. 28 January 1924, Drafts, for Mrs Dalloway, Holograph; Microfilm, Add. MS. 51004/Microfilm 2385, British Library Western Manuscripts, 10. Copyright of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representatives of the Virginia Woolf Estate.

  97. 97.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 90.

  98. 98.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 42–43.

  99. 99.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 113.

  100. 100.

    Tratner notes that Virginia Woolf “hosted weekly meetings of the Women’s Cooperative Guild”, while Leonard Woolf “wrote a series of books in the 1920s advocating a “Cooperative Commonwealth” as the ‘Future of Industry’”. See Michael Tratner, Deficits and Desires: Economics and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 94.

  101. 101.

    Virginia Woof to Margaret Llewelyn Davies, 27 June 1923, in A Change of Perspective: The Letters of Virginia Woolf (1923–28), ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, vol. 3 (London: Hogarth Press, 1980).

  102. 102.

    Tratner, Deficits and Desires, 104–105.

  103. 103.

    Keynes, The General Theory, 107, 108.

  104. 104.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 115.

  105. 105.

    Virginia Woolf, “Introductory Letter”, in Life as We Have Known It, ed. Margaret Llewelyn Davies (New York: Norton, 1975).

  106. 106.

    Woolf, “Introductory Letter”, xxv.

  107. 107.

    Woolf, “Introductory Letter”, xxvi.

  108. 108.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 110–111.

  109. 109.

    Woolf, “Introductory Letter”, xxix; Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 110.

  110. 110.

    Alison Light, Mrs Woolf and the Servants (London: Fig Tree, 2007), 172.

  111. 111.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 154–155.

  112. 112.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 165.

  113. 113.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 172.

  114. 114.

    Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 172.

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Comyn, S. (2018). Woolf, Keynes, and the Compulsion to Consume. In: Political Economy and the Novel. Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94325-1_5

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