Shell shock and hysterical fugue, or why Mrs Dalloway likes Bach

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This essay explores the significance of fugue to Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel Mrs Dalloway. Its focus is twofold: it considers the significance of the medical term ‘hysterical fugue’ to Woolf's representation of shell shock, and it provides an innovative reading of the ‘fugal’ form of this novel. Tracing the detailed parallels between the structure of Woolf's text and that of musical fugue, it explores the implications of Woolf's use of this musical form for Mrs Dalloway's national, gender and class politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalFirst World War Studies
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Virginia Woolf
  • Mrs Dalloway
  • fugue
  • J.S. Bach
  • shell shock
  • hysterical fugue
  • literature and music


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