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Virginia Woolf, Mental Illness and the Creative Process

Year: 
2007
Researcher(s): 
James Schleicher
Institution: 
Notre Dame College
Discipline: 
Literature

Virginia Woolf suffered from Bipolar II disorder. Like most authors, her characters were an extension of herself. The euphoric experiences and incredible creativity she possessed allowed her to create some of the greatest literature of the modern era. However, her episodes of depression spawned her suicidal behavior and misguided treatment by physicians throughout her lifetime. The “rest cure” prescribed to her by physicians cut off her ability to create and write when she needed it most. Isolating her from society and her work had a lasting effect on how she responded to future suicidal episodes. In her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Septimus Smith’s decision to commit suicide and Clarissa Dalloway’s praise of it may have reflected Virginia Woolf's personal struggle. In my paper I will investigate and explain two main ideas. The first main point will focus on how the character of Septimus Smith acts as an extension of Woolf's Bipolar II disorder through his euphoric and depressive episodes throughout the novel. Secondly, I will explain how Virginia Woolf attempts to enlighten society about the limited and controlling nature of physicians of the modern time period.

ONU Student Research Colloquium