Translating Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse into Surrealist Art


  • Hanna Agnieszka Liskowska



Virginia Woolf often crosses the boundaries between literature and painting in her writing, masterfully combining these two realms. However, her novels are only ever read within a post-Impressionist framework. In this essay, I aim to challenge this well-established notion by translating To the Lighthouse into the terms of surrealist art. Firstly, I compare automatic writing used by surrealists and Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness technique and free indirect discourse, also reflecting on their significance in Lily Briscoe’s painting. Then, I explore the concept of the surreal house and space in both surrealism and To the Lighthouse. Lastly, I develop the notion of Mrs Ramsay as a ghost and her influence on Lily’s final piece of art. To justify my translation, I return to Freudian psychoanalysis, which was fundamental for surrealists and equally significant for Woolf, although in a less immediate way. It is essential to note that existing scholarship does not associate Woolf with surrealism at all, and, accordingly, I am not going to argue that Woolf considered herself a surrealist, nor that To the Lighthouse is representative of the movement. Instead, I plan to challenge the form of Woolf’s novel, redirecting our transfixed gaze towards new possible dimensions of this well-known, extensively interpreted text, and assist in merging the realms of literature and painting.




How to Cite

Liskowska, Hanna Agnieszka. 2023. “Translating Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse into Surrealist Art”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts 34 (1).



Transmediality & Art