Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Martha Carpentier, Ph.D

Committee Member

Angela Weisl, Ph.D


Virginia Woolf, Lily Briscoe, Mrs. Ramsay, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One's Own, Motherhood, Feminist Criticism


When Virginia Woolf discusses the struggles of women writers in A Room of One’s Own she points out that one of the greatest hindrances to women’s ability to write fiction, besides the criticism they will face, is the fact “that they had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers if we are women” (76). In To the Lighthouse, Woolf further explores this need for a female tradition through the struggles Mrs. Ramsay faces as an unfulfilled artist working through the only mode of art open to her, her role as angel in the house, and her influence over the painter Lily Briscoe, whom many critics consider to be a surrogate daughter to Mrs. Ramsay. Lily cannot exist without Mrs. Ramsay and not because she is motivated by a desire to rebel against Mrs. Ramsay’s angel in the house, but because Mrs. Ramsay is the foundation on which Lily can begin to build a tradition. Woolf is not necessarily pitting Mrs. Ramsay against Lily Briscoe, but instead she is revealing a struggle that they have in common, which is the struggle to create art in a patriarchal society.