Postmodern Feminism: Cultural Trauma in Construction of Female Identities in Virginia Woolf's The Waves

Leila Baradaran Jamili, Ziba Roshanzamir


The present article sheds new light on trauma as a devastating phenomenon respecting the construction of male and female characters' identities and reveals reconstruction of male and female identities in Virginia Woolf's (1882-1941) The Waves (1931). Trauma is defined as an unexpected event that leaves the most terrible marks on the person's self, identity, psyche, emotions, beliefs, etc. Individual trauma is diagnosed by the male and female characters' horrendous responses regarded as post-traumatic stress disorder in terms of a distressing recollection of the traumatic occurrence. In contrast, cultural trauma, like patriarchy, gender, or sexual difference which has a horrific influence on cultures, can encompass traumatically the collective identity of male and female characters. In The Waves, the characters such as Rhoda, Jinny, and Susan get involved in the struggle for the self-definition relating to their collective and individual identities, respectively. No wonder, this article exploits an integrated method of feminism and psycho-trauma. It contextualizes the ideologies of postmodern feminist critics, such as Judith Butler (1956-), Helene Cixous (1937-), Cathy Caruth (1955-), and Luce Irigaray (1930-). Woolf, de facto, reveals how trauma as a catastrophe, either individual or collective, affects shockingly male and female characters' identities, so that their physical and psychological responses can be analyzed in terms of diagnosis of the trauma and its aftermath.


Gender, Patriarchy, Reconstruction of Identity, Sexual Difference, Trauma

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