Contradiction and ambivalence : Virginia Woolf and the aesthetic experience in "The Duchess and the Jeweller"

Laura María Lojo Rodríguez

Abstract


In the midst of the terror waged on Europe by Nazi demonstrations of power and racial extermination Virginia Woolf published a most contrevorsial short story -"The Duchess and the Jeweller" (1938)- which was originally entitled "The Duchess and the Jew" but was changed at the request of Woolf's American publisher for its racist connotations. The story has been neglected by the critics on account of two major reasons: on the one hand, it does not partake of those innovative narrative devices that most of Woolf's fiction presents; on the other such an apparently Anti-Semitist piece of work is inconveniently at odds with the oeuvre of a writer who so ardently and energetically rejected Fascism in her pamphlet Three Guineas which was curiously simultaneous in date of composition and publication to "The Duchess and the Jeweller". Despite the fact that Woolf may have been airing her personal prejudices of race and class in the characters of Oliver Bacon and the Duchess of Lambourne, the present paper does not aim to do away with such incoherence, ambivalence and contradiction, but rather focuses on the jewel imagery which structures the narrative and which addresses questions such as the 'art for art's sake' doctrine versus the material commodity of beauty

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18172/jes.73

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© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 1576-6357

EISSN 1695-4300