Final Summary

Hello! I was at Oxford University while most of you all were doing your research, so I did my seven weeks of Monroe research in two halves: half before I left for the UK in April, and half upon returning to college in the fall. Therefore, I actually did half of my work before the blog started. I’m going to go ahead and post my final summary now, and the other few blogs I’ll add in after I dig up my notes from April (hint: organize your research better than I did).

The most dramatic thing to report about the final product of my research is that I ended up cutting out about half the project. I set out to analyze reviews of two Virginia Woolf novels, The Voyage Out and Mrs. Dalloway. As other literature students will surely tell you, comparing and contrasting two novels, even when by the same author, presents unique challenges. For one thing, my project hinged on analyzing the reviews of each novel and measuring what these reviews said about the historical context in which each work was produced. However, this leaves little room for a review to serve an aesthetic, rather than vaguely political, function. In other words, a compare/contrast between the two books wasn’t reasonable since most reviewers simply thought that Dalloway was a better novel, not necessarily that it more accurately reflected contemporary consciousness or something like that.

At the same time as I began to become discouraged with that, however, I made a fortunate discovery. The Voyage Out was published in the UK in 1915, but not until 1920 in the United States. Thus the integrity of the project, tracking the reviews across a crucial historical period, could remain intact, while eliminating the major problem that I was facing. While it’s not always the best move to simply omit issues when doing research, I’m glad I chose this method. Although it meant giving up some really interesting claims, my project became more focused and my points less of a stretch to make. Eliminating problematic variables, even if it means sacrificing hard work, can sometimes be the best solution to tricky research setbacks.