"Exquisite Moments and the Temporality of the Kiss in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours."
"More than thirty years after it occurred, Clarissa Dalloway still remembers the kiss between herself and Sally Seton as 'the most exquisite moment of her whole life' (Woolf 35). In scholarship on Mrs. Dalloway, this moment has most commonly been read as evidence of a repressed lesbian identity or dismissed as representing the innocence of childhood friendship. More recently, however, the kiss between Sally and Clarissa has sparked conversation among queer theorists regarding its relationship to temporality."
"The queer moment, as constructed by Sedgwick, is thus able to disrupt the progressive temporality that insists individuals move linearly through a set of life-stages." (144).
"Like Sedgwick's text, Mrs. Dalloway also enacts a temporality in which Clarissa is able to transcend the divide between her adolescent and her adult selves. Because of this, I am suggesting that we read the moments between Clarissa and Sally as 'queer moments', as moments that disrupt the common distinctions between adolescence and manhood, as moments that make nonsense of the developmental narratives that critics try to impose on them" (144).
"Mrs. Dalloway is a text that itself insists on the power of moments" (144)
"The difference between these two positions in time has momentarily dissolved, and the adult and the child exist simultaneously" (145)
"In her adult life, Clarissa carries with her the 'present' that Sally has given her. The 'religious feeling' associated with this relationship is sometimes able to burn through the layers of time ("the radiance burnt through").
"Clarissa feels 'somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself', and 'she felt glad that he had done it' (186). Clarissa's gladness seems to be centered on the fact that Septimus would plunge to his death rather than give up his 'treasure'. She understands the desire to die in order to preserve something 'exquisite'. Clarissa's way of preserving this 'treasure', however, is quite different from Septimus's" (146).
"Clarissa thus married Richard because he allows for space, both mental and physical. She does not marry him to join herself emotionally to someone else, but to preserve a space for herself" [A Room of one's own]. By Clarissa's fiftieth year, she is sleeping in a narrow bed in her own room in the attic" (147).
"This 'thing . . . that mattered', this thing that Septimus 'had preserved', is 'his treasure'—that thing without which life is not worth living (184). Could 'it' also be what Clarissa finds 'with a shock of delight, as the sun rose, as the day sank" (185), the treasure of her youth, her 'present'—that exquisite kiss with Sally—that Clarissa has been holding onto for all these years?" (148).
"This is not a text about moving from the past into the future, but rather one about the preservation of the past in the present." (149).
"For Clarissa, then, it is this 'present', this kiss with Sally, that remains, that returns to disrupt linear narratives of development. It is a moment of queer temporality; it hangs between life and death, between youth and adulthood, and crashes through all the barriers meant to keep the past and the present separate" (149).
"Woolf is able to present a queer temporality that disrupts and questions traditional forms of narration and traditional plots" (149).
Woolf: "I have no time to describe my plans, I should say a good deal about The Hours & my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, and each comes to daylight at the present moment" (149).
"In other parts of her journal, Woolf refers to this method as her 'tunneling process' (Hungerford 164). This tunneling process is the means by which the past ends up side by side with the present in Mrs. Dalloway. Cunningham's prose seems to enact the same process, but his text also attempts to understand the riddle of the 'exquisite moment' as it exists in Woolf's text" (149).
"In this way, The Hours is very much a text about the experience of time, both about the duration of time passing and about the moments that seem to rupture the experience of duration" (150).
"In this way, Cunningham's text is not merely a re-telling of Mrs. Dalloway or a rehashing of its themes; instead, the novel demonstrates exactly what these queer moments make possible—a different relation to the future" (151).
"And like the Clarissa in Woolf's novel, Clarissa Vaughan also has a kiss in her past that often returns to disrupt her present. Her kiss, however, was with Richard, a gay man who is currently her best friend. For Clarissa, it is this kiss that is transgressive and not her relationship with Sally. By switching the gender of these characters, Cunningham is able to more clearly delineate the significance of the kiss. These moments hold such power not because they are same-sex kisses (indeed, one is not) but because they exist outside an imaginable, scripted future. The queer moment disrupts not only hetero-normative time but also homo-normative time. It complicates those temporalities that naturalize the development through conventional life-stages." (152).
From The Hours:
He says, "Here we are. Don't you think?"
"We're middle-aged and we're young lovers standing beside a pond. We're everything, all at once. Isn't it remarkable?"
"Yes." (The Hours 67)
"Echoing lines from Mrs. Dalloway in a different context, Richard's statement positions the kiss as a gateway thorugh which these 'middle-aged' individuals and these 'young lovers' can exist simultaneously. In this way he seems to echo Clarissa Dalloway's visions of herself as both young and old." (153)
"The feeling that 'anything could happen' is a feeling of not knowing the future. And not to know or anticipate the future is to be able to fully occupy the present. In this instant, Clarissa was able to slip out of the normal temporality of her life, of worrying about the future, of trying to makes sense of the present, and fully occupy the moment" (154)
"Indeed, to be in the temporality of everyday life is to anticipate the future based on what one knows about the past. This is the type of temporality that Laura experiences when she talks about 'continuance' (Cunningham 206). It is the belief that the future will be merely a repetition of the past. The moment, however, is able to disrupt this kind of temporality, the temporality of cause and effect, of past projected into the future. For both Clarissa and Kitty, a kiss allows them to occupy the present momentarily and to feel the elation of a future that is on the horizon but is not yet decided" (154-5).
"This does not mean that the moment is outside of narrative, for certainly these moments I have described exist within frames of narrative, but moments disrupt the flow of time in the novel without any definitive teleological purpose. They simply are." (155)
Cunningham: ..."all the vivid, pointless moments that can't be told as stories" (The Hours 132)
Not lyric vs narrative, not the interruption of a lyrical moment before narrative goes on. "Narrative does press on, but the queer moment remains. It is a remnant of a previous time that continues. And in this case, part of what continues on is a relation to an unpredictable future." (155).
Arnold Bennett on Mrs. Dalloway: "What Bennett's criticisms show is the way in which 'the moment' interferes with and disrupts traditional model of narrative" (158).
In The Hours, "The hours in which 'our lives seem . . . to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined' are placed in opposition to the hours that continue relentlessly forward (225). But it is the pleasure of 'an hour here or there' that we hope for 'more than anything'. These are the 'vivid, pointless moments', as Clarissa Vaughan states earlier, 'that can't be told as stories' (132).
"as Woolf and Cunningham have shown, to occupy the moment can also mean recognizing the connection between disparate moments in time and enacting crossings across perceived divides" (159).
"In both texts, the kiss is explored as a kiss rather than as a stop along the way to sex, a climax. The kiss itself partakes of an interesting and strange temporality"; "within queer
temporality the moment is not merely 'enough'; it is the opening to a future that is not yet decided" (159).