Throughout Virginia Woolf’s works, she uses the spatial turn theory—the role of physical location in narrative and the reorientation of space. Experimenting with time and place, she blends the past and the present seamlessly into “moments of being,” suspending the conventional constructs of reality. She also incorporates Baudelaire’s theory of the flâneur—the figure of a male observer of the streets—to break ground and create a flâneuse— a woman who also walks for pleasure without a societal leash. Her characters discover the vitality of London’s urban landscape by walking alone. In turn, they cultivate their own autonomy.
In Fall 2019, I flew to London and followed in Woolf’s and her characters’ lofty footsteps. I visited all six of her London homes; I meandered the green squares of Bloomsbury where she was inspired to write; and I walked through several parks at the center of her works, including Kew Gardens where she wrote a short story of the same name. There, I felt the vitality of the streets, gathering research and observations and walking over 60 miles across Woolf’s narrative terrain.Applying my field research, I wrote three narrative essays in which I compare my time in London with that of Woolf. Through the spatial turn and flâneur theories, I analyze Woolf’s London in relation to my own London adventure one century later, dividing each essay into physical places central to Woolf’s works: Streets, Squares and Circles, and Parks and Green Spaces. Additionally, I created a map and a video component, mapping my itinerary. It is through this format that I compare Woolf’s London—then and now.