Lisa Weil


Since the publication of Virginia Woolf s novel To the Lighthouse in 1927, a significant volume of critical commentary has grown to surround the work. These critical interpretations come in two types: some consider Woolf's technical experiments in style and form; others consider her ideology. Commentaries which address Woolf's ideology include discussions of her views on philosophy, aesthetics, relations between the sexes, and feminist issues. In recent years, scholars have approached the novel with the insight of Woolf's autobiographical writings and have taken a particular interest in feminist and psychoanalytical themes in the work. This Article's analysis differs from the existing body of commentary by exploring another dimension of Woolf's ideology: her legal philosophy. Existing commentaries interpret the celebrated expedition to the Lighthouse as a quest for psychological maturity, truth, harmonious social relations between men and women, and aesthetic harmonies. This Article adds another dimension to the symbolic voyage and interprets the expedition as a quest for justice. Critics have often placed Woolf within the intellectual aristocracy of her time and judged her as an elitist who avoided themes of social and political importance.4 This Article counters that criticism and concludes that Woolf's intellectual ideas about aesthetics, philosophy, and social relations are carefully interwoven with a philosophy of legal and social reform. To the Lighthouse is not a work of ivory tower intellectualism. Rather, Woolf's legal vision of social change, grounded in the common needs of humanity, is an integral theme of the novel. Approaching the novel through the lens of legal philosophy integrates Woolf's social, philosophical, and aesthetic ideas into a unified moral aesthetic leading to a just society.

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