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The American Isherwood$
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James J. Berg and Chris Freeman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816683611

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816683611.001.0001

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Writing the Unspeakable in A Single Man and Mrs. Dalloway

Writing the Unspeakable in A Single Man and Mrs. Dalloway

(p.49) 4 Writing the Unspeakable in A Single Man and Mrs. Dalloway
The American Isherwood

Jamie Carr

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the influence of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway on Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel A Single Man. In his diary in the early 1960s, Isherwood unquestionably praises Woolf’s novel as “one of the most truly beautiful novels or prose poems or whatever that I have ever read. It is prose written with absolute pitch, a perfect ear. You could perform it with instruments. Could I write a book like that and keep within the nature of my own style? I’d love to try.” That Isherwood was rereading Mrs. Dalloway while beginning to compose A Single Man suggests a more profound connection between his and Woolf’s work than his later remark indicates. In their efforts to speak the truth in their novels, Woolf and Isherwood convey a shared political aesthetic philosophy that literature can articulate a counterdiscourse to the social proscriptions against same-sex desire and public mourning when this love is lost.

Keywords:   love, Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man, novel, aesthetic philosophy, same-sex desire, mourning

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