Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Critical Reading Response #1

“Pursuing ‘It’ through ‘Kew Gardens’”—Critical Article by Edward L Bishop*

Edward Bishop’s article, “Pursuing ‘It’ through ‘Kew Gardens,’” forces us (who have read “Kew Gardens”) to remember what Bishop calls “the atmosphere of the garden” (Bishop 109).  In effect, Bishop articulates what is so difficult to pinpoint in Virginia Woolf’s short story.  While one of the couples in the story explicitly discusses “It,” Bishop offers two definitions for what “it” is:  “the essence of the natural and the human world of the garden,” and “the ‘yellow and green atmosphere’ that is both ethos and ambience of the garden” (Bishop 109, 115).  Our difficulty as readers navigating “Kew Gardens” as critics rests in the fact that Woolf’s narrative technique (as Bishop notes, one that she will continue to expand upon, tighten, and employ) “engages the reader with something as nebulous as an ‘atmosphere’” (Bishop 110).  Thus, the reader, through the act of reading Woolf’s carefully constructed language, slips down into the story itself, experiences the sensations developed under Woolf’s pen, and drifts into and among Woolf’s words in such a way that he/she, too, strolls through Kew Gardens, whether as a human eavesdropping on (sometimes intimate) conversations, or as a snail struggling to maneuver through a flower bed.  While Bishop’s article fuses the story with an understanding of Woolf’s “it,” his article also delineates what is so crucial to Woolf’s writings at large, the “It,” if you will, of Woolf’s works:  “The value of [Woolf’s] fiction derives less from the specific insights it imparts (one finds it difficult to remember the particulars of her works) than from the fact that the experience of reading initiates, in the sensitive reader, a growth of perception” (Bishop 115-116).  Thus, Bishop’s article ultimately works to guide the reader through “Kew Gardens” as well as to help the reader approach additional writings by Woolf. 

*Bishop, Edward.  "Pursuing 'It' through 'Kew Gardens.'"  Studies in Short Fiction 19.3 (1982): 269-275.**

**I used a reprinted copy of this article from another source, but since I only have the copied version, I have no way to properly document/cite it.  The text in both copies, however, remains the same. 

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