Meaning, Experience, and the Modern Self: The Phenomenology of Spontaneous Sense in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

Jacob Martin Rump


By portraying meaning as a phenomenon that eludes

complete expression and arises spontaneously in our everyday

embodied interactions with others and objects in the world, as well as

in our own unconscious registering of those interactions, Woolf’s Mrs.

Dalloway is uniquely insightful concerning both the presence of

meaning in modern life and the modern conception of the self –

phenomena marked by a certain ineradicable tension between that

which is constituted by us and that which is given from outside us.

This paper examines this tension through the lens of Merleau-Ponty’s

phenomenology, with special attention to the leitmotif of the

«spontaneity of sense». Woolf and Merleau-Ponty both help to

illustrate an important modern insight: that among the most

meaningful experiences are those that are not only unexpected and

unexplained, but in some sense foreign and unexplainable –

mysterious events and yet everyday occurrences that explode the

supposed privacy of our thoughts, and exceed our capacity for



Sense-Making; Expression; Unconscious; Modernity; Identity

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Metodo. International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy
Published by sdvig press, Genève-Lausanne
ISSN  2281-9177

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