Memory and Reflective Nostalgia in “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf and “The Go-Between” by L. P. Hartley

Sylwia Janina Wojciechowska, PhD, Assistant Professor
Department of Literature Studies
Institute of Modern Languages
Pedagogical Faculty
Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, Poland
e-mail: sylwia.wojciechowska@ignatianum.edu.pl


The mode of nostalgia for past happiness is central in contemporary accounts of earlier epochs, and it becomes particularly visible in British prose fiction set in the first half of the twentieth century. I argue that in such accounts memories and recollections are shaped by the mode of nostalgia. This paper focuses on the aspects of reflective nostalgia as recently theorized by Svetlana Boym. It opens with a short introduction into the history of nostalgia and the experience of war for generating a nostalgic longing for the past. It also elaborates on the etymological issues and implications suggested by concepts of nostos [the return] and algos [pain]. I would argue that memories featured in British twentieth-century prose fiction are influenced by the workings of nostalgia which may be either idealizing or imbued with pain and sorrow. Consequently, I claim that the focus placed on the act of nostos promotes the interplay of nostalgia and the pastoral mode; by contrast, the expression of algos rather selects the elegiac mode. Thus, the paper seeks to prove that the different foci of nostalgia influence the modality of the twentieth-century prose fiction, as exemplified in “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf and “The Go-Between” by L. P. Hartley.

Keywords: reflective nostalgia, nostos, algos, elegiac mode, pastoral mode


How to cite:
Wojciechowska, S. J. (2021). “Memory and Reflective Nostalgia in ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf and ‘The Go-Between’ by L. P. Hartley.” Journal of Comparative Studies 14 (43), 60–79. https://doi.org/10.59893/jcs.14(43).004