”An ordinary mind on an ordinary day”

Rachel Bowlby


This paper takes as its focus the well-known imperative sentence from Woolf’s essay ‘Modern Fiction’: ‘Examine, for a moment, an ordinary mind on an ordinary day’. The tenor of this sentence is philosophical, in that it draws on the vocabulary and the rhetorical style of the English academic philosophy of Woolf’s own time. It is followed by equally famous sentences about the cascade of ‘impressions’ and ‘atoms’ to which the allegedly general ‘mind’ is subject; the article goes on to suggest the disparate sources and analogues for such a frame—in particular Baudelaire and Freud—and to link the heterogeneous philosophy of this passage with the general preoccupation in Woolf’s writing with the representation of the day.



Woolf, Virginia; Modern Fiction; Moore, George Edward; Freud, Sigmund; Baudelaire, Charles; Mind

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