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Bond, A.H. (1986). Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: A Father's Contribution to Psychosis and Genius. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 14(4):507-524.

(1986). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14(4):507-524

Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: A Father's Contribution to Psychosis and Genius

Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

This paper is an attempt to understand the character of Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf's father, and the manner in which he interacted with her early psychic structure. It is also a further attempt (see Bond, 1985) to investigate the origin of both her psychosis and her genius and to understand the comparative contributions of heredity and environment.

To begin with, let us examine the negative as well as the positive effects of Leslie Stephen's character on Virginia Woolf as revealed in To the Lighthouse (Woolf, 1927). This autobiographical novel concerns the attempts of a family to achieve its symbolic goal. The book, which is divided into three parts, can be analyzed into various times-pans which represent the development of Virginia Woolf's life and character. The first section, entitled “The Window,” represents the development of Virginia's personality structure as it unfolded during her early life with her mother. This is discussed in detail in my earlier paper (Bond, 1985), which hypothesizes that Virginia was terrified of reengulfment during the reapproachment stage of separation-individuation and ran away from her mother into madness. The period covered in this section ended with her mother's death. The second section of the novel is entitled “Time Passes” and symbolizes the 7 year hiatus of dissolution and despair experienced by Virginia and her family following the death of Mrs. Stephen. It also represents the aftermath of Virginia's failure to connect emotionally with her mother, when the child ostensibly sank into the forerunner of her psychotic depressions.

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