The centennial studies of Virginia Woolf's theory of fiction display an obvious confrontation among different critical stances in the 20th century. The Anglo-American criticism witnesses five major research phases. Firstly, in the 1920s, Woolf's experimental characterization was challenged its appropriateness by Arnold Bennett, one of the most popular novelists at that time, and the ten-year-long controversy between Woolf and Bennett indicates an academic contention between the long-lasting Neoclassic mimetic theory and the Romantic organic theory praised highly by Woolf and the Bloomsbury group. Secondly, in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Woolf's critical essays were severely criticized by Louis Kronenberger, F. R. Leavis, Horace Gregory, Diana Trilling, Mark Schorer and other professional scholars for its lack of intellectual analysis and appropriate moral sense, or for its neglect of reality, or for its subjective mode, which signifies the Anglo-American new-critical denial of Woolf's artistic criticism as it was regarded similar to Walter Pater's impressionist criticism. Thirdly, in the 1960s and 1970s, French critic Jean Guiguet disclosed Woolf's criticism to be a unification of reading, criticism and creation in nature, her critical features as intuition, integrity and pleasure, and her critical thought originating in the Romantic theories of S. T. Coleridge and John Keats, which fully affirmed the value of Woolf's theory of fiction. Guiguet's positive comments received affirmative response in British academic circles, as critics, such as Mark Goldman, A. Fothergill and V. L. Sharma, acknowledged the value of Woolf's common reader critical position, and revealed respectively the core of Woolf's critical theory to be her attempt to reach a creative balance between reason and emotion, sense and sensibility, the individual critic and the impersonal method (via media), or to be her historical conception of reality, or to be her theory of androgyny. Based on a sharp critique of new-critical bias and an insightful French critical vision, these articles and monopolies initiated an intrinsic exploration of Woolf's theory itself with the decline of Anglo-American new criticism. Fourthly, in the 1980s, Rene Wellek's and Elizabeth C. Madison's overall reviews of Woolf's criticism represented a comprehensive acceptance of Woolf's common reader position and her ground rules postulated for criticism, yet apart from a summary of Woolf's distinguished critical approach and its difference from British formal criticism, its value was still unclear. Fifthly, in and after the 1990s, a feminist and postmodern reading of Woolf's essays turned out to be the focus of the study, Pamela L. Caughie further explored the significance of Woolf's common reader from postmodern perspective, pointing out its aesthetic and self-reflexive qualities, while Hermione Lee emphasized its essence of dialogue between readers and writers. In general, the centennial Anglo-American studies display a change of attitudes of the professional seeking-fault criticism to Woolf's artistic seeking-beauty criticism, from denial and repudiation to gradual approval and acceptance. In these phases, critics refute or partially accept Woolf's critical viewpoints and methods from the perspectives of their pre-postulated theories, such as neoclassic mimetic theory, new criticism, feminism, postmodernism, yet most critics could hardly enter into the realm of Woolf's theory of fiction without theoretical prejudices and limitations, while French critic Guiguet is an exception, who traced back to the origins of Woolf's criticism, and threw light on her original ideas and their value, which turned out to be the enlightening source of the later researches. Chinese criticism initiated from the late 1980s, Qu Shijing, Gao Fen, and other critics uncovered the significance, essence and value of Woolf's theory of fiction from the perspectives of society, history, creation, form, state of mind, etc, presenting a supplementary research to the Anglo-American one. Gao Fen published about 10 articles, disclosing the significance of Woolf's poetics as follows: it defines literature in essence as an artistic form to record life, reality as a unity of spirit and object, conception as an organic imaginative process, criticism as an aesthetic experience from perspective to perception, constituent of literature as emotions and thoughts, form as artistic expression of emotions and thoughts, truth as a synthesis of that of facts, imagination and inner life, artistic state as that of object, emotion and image, characterized with transcendence and pointing at the invisible essence of life. It's quintessence is identical with that of Chinese poetic ideas, such as Xujing, Shensi, Zhiyin, Miaowu, Quwei, Wenzhi, Zhenhuan, Yijing, etc. The significance of Woolf's poetics is that it breaks through the limits of human rationality and cognition, and reaches a world of unity with human beings and the Great nature being one.
高奋. 弗吉尼亚·伍尔夫小说理论近百年研究述评[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2016, 2(1): 119-.
Gao Fen. A Centennial Review of Virginia Woolf's Theory of Fiction Studies. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2016, 2(1): 119-.