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"We Are No Longer Quite Ourselves": Rethinking Vulnerability in Virginia Woolf's "Street Haunting: A London Adventure"



This paper intends to inquire the slippage between writing and walking in Virginia Woolf 's "Street Haunting: A London Adventure." Reading walking as a metonymy of Woolf's aesthetics, this paper argues that Woolf 's writing, like her body, is characterized by its vulnerability to write its own passivity. Drawing from Judith Butler's conceptualization of vulnerability, this paper demonstrates that instead of embracing an invulnerable subjectivity capable of resisting the shock in the streets and taking hold of the social problems, "Street Haunting" is more concerned with the question of the subject's susceptibility and responsiveness to contingent city encounters. In the midst of street haunting in London, Woolf becomes "an enormous eye" in the face of alterity and street shocks. By problematizing the perceiving eye, this paper argues that the enormous eye does not reiterate the primacy of vision; rather, it reveals the tension between agency and passivity in bodily vulnerability and the possibilities of ethical responsiveness regarding the suffering in the streets.

Parallel abstracts



Bowlby, Rachel. Feminist Destinations and Further Essays on Virginia Woolf. Edinburgh UP, 1997.
Bowlby, Rachel. “Walking, Women, and Writing: Virginia Woolf as Flâneuse.” Still Crazy After All These Years: Women, Writing & Psychoanalysis. Routledge, 1992, pp. 1-33.
Butler, Judith, and Athena Athanasiou. Dispossession: The Performative in the Political. Polity P, 2013.
Butler, Judith. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?. Verso, 2009.
Butler, Judith. Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Harvard UP, 2015.