In her 1927 essay ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’, Virginia Woolf outlines a new theory of literature for the modern age and models the writer’s task in a manner that corresponds to a pilgrimage.1 She suggests that in order to suit the changing needs of the times, literature must repeatedly create new forms and ‘learn a new step’ (1975: 23). Noting the tendency in both critics and writers always to fix their gaze upon the past, she asks, ‘could [the critic] not sometimes turn round, and shading his eyes in the manner of Robinson Crusoe on the desert island, look into the future and trace on its mist the faint lines of the land which some day perhaps we might reach?’ (1975: 11). Woolf’s use of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as a touchstone in her manifesto for a new literary paradigm implies an equation between literary creation and the forward impetus of the travel narrative. However, with this reference to a text often considered to be the first English novel, Woolf also travels back to the roots of English novelistic tradition, a tradition that has always been intertwined with tropes of travel.2 If it seems ironic that Woolf mines the literature of the past in order to urge modern writers on their forward journey, we should note that the critical journey that she evokes is neither linear nor simply progressive; it is, rather, one that circles back to the past in order to move towards the future. Throughout ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’, Woolf suggests that, while the writer cannot be stuck in the past, she nonetheless always creates out of the past, recasting past narratives in an appropriately new form for the present age. Woolf’s discussion of the relation between modern writing and literary history in this essay thus offers a quite different perspective than the distinct break with the past that she seems to advocate elsewhere, particularly in the essay which is so often seen as her manifesto, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, where she defines the ‘break’ as ‘particularly sharp’ and ‘the dispute’ as ‘fundamental’ (1923: 343). In ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’s vision of new forms of narrative, the past and the present coexist in a mutually informing dialectic. Woolf simultaneously pays homage to past narratives and stresses the urgent need for new forms. By making a seemingly oblique reference to Robinson Crusoe in ‘The

Narrow Bridge of Art’, Woolf, the female modernist, pays tribute to what

she saw as two almost exclusively male traditions: the English novel and the English traveller.3 She at once imagines continuity with both of these traditions and turns them on their heads, proposing a new literature that emphasises the innovative and the everyday; her self-conscious homage to Defoe’s novel creates a pilgrimage in the place of a tale of exploration and colonisation. Woolf’s engagement with Defoe’s novel elucidates the way in which a pilgrimage is always a storied journey, a process given meaning by and through narrative. Her literary pilgrimage is Janus-faced as it simultaneously evokes the past and strives towards innovation; it thus mirrors the way in which the pilgrim retraces past footsteps in order to attain some transcendent, unique moment of experience. Moreover, Woolf’s narrative pilgrimage connects achieving such a transcendent moment of experience with arriving at a sacred site, imagining ‘the faint lines of the land which some day perhaps we might reach’ (1975: 11). In Landscapes of the Sacred, Belden C. Lane examines the connection between pilgrimage and sacred space and suggests that pilgrimage is not only storied but also placed; it is a journey that is necessarily geographically specific (2001: 9). Lane defines the sacred place as one that ‘takes root in [ … ] the substance of our daily lives, but is transformed by the imagination to that which is aweinspiring and grand’ (2001: 29). Woolf’s essay suggests that we might add to Lane’s theory by considering that the ‘place’ of ‘meaningful experience’ may be a fictional or narrative space. Moreover, as Lane challenges the notion that spiritual experience is somehow displaced from the everyday world and its geography, he reminds us of the way in which modernist literature is often concerned with the potentially transformative nature of the everyday or commonplace. As Woolf puts it in ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’, ‘under the dominion of the novel [ … ] we have come to forget that a large and important part of life consists in our emotions towards such things as roses and nightingales, the dawn, the sunset’ (1975: 19). Woolf’s ambivalent relationship with literary history in ‘The Narrow

Bridge of Art’ reflects, more broadly, the complex nature of modernist pilgrimage as I am defining it in this book. In particular, her essay opens up the space of the pilgrimage (both as a narrative trope and geographical journey) as a possible new female form. This chapter considers a cluster of modernist novels about female travellers in which pilgrimage becomes the central metaphor to shape the fictional journey and structure the narrative, focusing in detail on Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond (1956), E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View (1908) and Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915).4 I examine Macaulay’s, Forster’s and Woolf’s works in the context of both women’s travel writing and the female Bildungsroman and explore the links they forge among journeying, sacred spaces and self-knowledge. These three novels constitute a literary conversation: Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, responds to Forster’s first (although not first published) novel, A Room with a View, and Macaulay’s final novel, The Towers of Trebizond, responds to both works. Although Macaulay’s novel was

published later than the other works, I place my discussion of it first because The Towers of Trebizond, the most explicit engagement with the trope of pilgrimage and the only overtly religious of the novels, provides a framework for exploring Forster’s and Woolf’s more ambiguous examples of fictional pilgrimage. My other intention is to draw attention to the non-canonical text and to highlight the hitherto-unacknowledged connections among these modernist writers. While Woolf and Forster’s literary friendship as part of the Bloomsbury Group has been well documented, Macaulay’s friendships with both writers and her admiration for their works is perhaps less well known.5 In her 1938 study, The Writings of E. M. Forster, Macaulay expresses a feeling of spiritual kinship with Forster and an appreciation for the way in which Forster’s fiction examines the ‘mystic borderlands’ of the world (1941: 394). Macaulay praises Woolf’s work in similar terms for expressing ‘this interflow of the outward and the inward’ (1938: 394), and, despite Woolf’s condemnation of Macaulay as ‘a successful lady novelist’ (Woolf 1977: 501), Gloria G. Fromm argues that ‘Rose Macaulay exercised more of an influence on Virginia Woolf than anyone has thought to suspect’ (1986: 295). These writers’ mutual interest in depicting ‘borderlands’ and ‘interflows’ is evident throughout The Towers of Trebizond, A Room with a View and The Voyage Out. The female protagonists of all three novels share a desire for their trips abroad to be transformative rites of passage. They seek self-discovery through moments of extraordinary experience, and, in short, their journeys are imbued with a spiritual weight that elevates them to the status of a pilgrimage. As Macaulay, Forster and Woolf assign the young, as-yet-unformed

traveller to a central position in the text, they conflate the pilgrim narrative with the Bildungsroman and thus create a valuable arena for studying questions concerning travel and identity formation. These works can best be characterised as fictional renditions of an ‘initiatory pilgrimage’, a term I borrow from E. Alan Morinis, who singles out a desire for self-transformation as a specific component of just one possible form of pilgrimage (1992: 13). As Morinis examines this particular category of pilgrimage, he responds to and revises Victor Turner’s ground-breaking anthropological work on pilgrimage. Turner focuses on pilgrimage as a rite of passage or initiation ritual, and his understanding of pilgrimage centres on his definition of communitas, an in-between or transitional state outside of structured time that is found ‘in many protracted initiation rites’ and ‘pilgrimage journeys’ (Turner 1974: 238). For Turner, all pilgrimage is initatory; he defines pilgrimage primarily as a social rite of passage whereby an individual crosses the limen or threshold from one social space to another. Morinis’s more nuanced distinction between different kinds of pilgrimage is important for it establishes pilgrimage as a broad and multifaceted kind of journeying that can be provoked by many different reasons and occur during many different life stages. Focusing on the specific characteristics of the ‘initiatory’ pilgrimage, as

defined by Morinis, allows a closer consideration of what exactly is at stake when a journey promises to provide a transformed sense of self. To understand Macaulay’s, Forster’s and Woolf’s novels as depictions of initiatory pilgrimages, however, does not necessarily entail that they rigidly subscribe to any set narrative or spiritual model. Indeed, all three works question both the limits of the category and the expected trajectory of the initiatory pilgrimage in various and important ways, effectively refuting Moretti’s claim that ‘a Bildung is truly such only if, at a certain point, it can be seen as concluded; only if youth passes into maturity, and comes to a stop there’ (2000: 26). As Macaulay, Forster and Woolf depict the spiritually transformative

journeys that their protagonists undertake, they trace the points of connection and convergence between tourism and pilgrimage, pushing the traditional definitions of each travelling category to their limits. In so doing, they foreshadow the Turners’ assertion that ‘a tourist is half a pilgrim, if a pilgrim is half a tourist’ (1978: 20), but they resist elevating the pilgrimage as a spiritually or morally superior form of travelling. In these novels, the consecrated spaces visited by the religious devotee are frequently the same as the sacred sites of tourism. Macaulay’s aunt Dot complains that Trebizond will be full of ‘Seventh-Day Adventists, Billy Grahamites, writers, diggers, photographers, spies, us [ … ] tumbling over each other’ (1995: 53). Forster plays with this same paradigm when he describes Reverend Eager’s party of tourists at Santa Croce as an ‘earnest congregation’ who carry ‘prayer books as well as guidebooks in their hands’ (1990: 43-4). As both tour guide and preacher, Mr Eager holds himself responsible for the religious and aesthetic instruction of his flock. In The Voyage Out Woolf similarly conflates the sacred and the touristic: the setting for the English visitors is ‘an old monastery [ … ] quickly turned into a hotel’ (1992d: 81). All three novels gently satirise the emerging new religion of mass tourism: Macaulay depicts American and British tourists touring the Holy Land ‘looking as if they were off to a great treat’ (1995: 208); Forster describes ‘the tourists: their noses [ … ] as red as their Baedekers’ (1995: 41); and Woolf mocks the hotel where one might ‘die of dulness (sic)’ (1992d: 84). At the same time, the novels suggest that the religious traveller on a pilgrimage risks taking a journey as circumscribed and unimaginative as the clichéd modern tourist. These novels, however, do more than simply engage ironically with the

trope of pilgrimage; like Woolf in ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’, they selfconsciously transform it into a new form for the modern age. In their attempt to reimagine pilgrimage, they draw attention to its simultaneously storied and placed nature, questioning the value of those inherited stories and predetermined spaces that structure the individual’s spiritual journey. Macaulay, Forster and Woolf imagine the possibility of travelling beyond the bounds of both prayerbooks and guidebooks. They each subvert the power of familiar sacred spaces such as the church or the cathedral, transposing the emotional centre of their narratives to exterior, natural and even

at times apparently mundane locations such as the countryside, the forest, the jungle or the mountain. The move from the inside and man-made to the outside and natural exposes what Gaston Bachelard identifies as the need to ‘determine being and, in so doing, transcend all situations’ (1969: 212), and it suggests how religious architecture defines and demarcates space in the very effort to rise above and beyond that space. On the one hand, these novels challenge the effectiveness of prescribed sacred spaces as vehicles for spiritual transcendence, questioning the creation of consecrated spaces. On the other hand, they enact a search for transcendence themselves by seeking new consecrated spaces. As Macaulay, Forster and Woolf conceive of a new kind of sacred space, they too imagine a new kind of spiritual experience. Morinis describes sacred spaces as divinely infused ‘rupture[s] in the ordinary domain, through which heaven peeks’ and a single moment of spiritual transcendence is achieved (1992: 5). For these fictional travellers, the apparently transcendent or epiphanic culmination of the pilgrimage is repeatedly compromised and questioned, and, ultimately, any moment of transcendence is itself ruptured. While the journeys in these novels may never quite succeed in evading the circumscribed borders of experience and identity, the experience of travel brings the characters into contact with old stories as well as with new lands. Thus, Macaulay, Forster and Woolf neither repeat the traditional pilgrimage nor simply translate that pilgrimage into new forms; rather, they examine and critique what constitutes a pilgrimage. All three novels challenge the conventional trajectory of the initiatory

pilgrimage, rewriting both the travel narrative and the coming-of-age plot. Although the idea of pilgrimage permeates each text, the authors continually question the supposed resolution and purpose of any pilgrimage. In so doing, they force the reader to consider the divisions between the familiar and the foreign, the mundane and the extraordinary that supposedly colour the traveller’s experience. During a trip to Turkey and Greece in 1906, Woolf wrote in her journal, ‘And is it not to study sides of all things that we travel?’ (Leaska 1990: 338). As she maintains that the traveller lays claim to all aspects of foreign experience, Woolf here foreshadows Belden Lane’s argument that the ordinary and the mundane must be considered in any examination of sacred space. The travellers in The Towers of Trebizond, A Room with a View and The Voyage Out respond to the question Woolf poses by learning to look at the spaces through which they travel from multiple perspectives and by discovering new ways of seeing both foreign and familiar spaces. As well as blurring the boundary between ordinary and extraordinary experience, the home and the foreign land, the novels also question the possibility of splitting a life into discrete components. None of the female protagonists end their pilgrimages by achieving a final, complete sense of self; rather, the pilgrimages in each novel are ongoing, open-ended and constantly subject to revision. The radical revision of the traditional coming-of-age plot that Macaulay,

Forster and Woolf imagine is perhaps most completely achieved in Dorothy

Richardson’s novel sequence Pilgrimage (1938). While a sustained examination of the thirteen novels, or chapters, that make up Pilgrimage is beyond the scope of this chapter, a very brief discussion of it will clarify how the female initiatory pilgrimage is transformed in modernism.6 Richardson’s Pilgrimage tells the story of Miriam Henderson’s developing consciousness between the years 1891 and 1912. The opening chapter of the first volume, Pointed Roofs, depicts Miriam sitting in her childhood bedroom, preparing to leave to work as a tutor at a German school, looking out towards the future. While the opening chapter is replete with tropes of beginnings and the home seems to be the still point from which Miriam’s journey both out into the world and towards maturity will begin, Miriam remains on the threshold throughout not only Pointed Roofs but also the other novels in the sequence. Laura Marcus defines the ‘dominant tense’ of the novel sequence as ‘perpetual present’ (2006: 441), suggesting how Miriam remains in a constant state of becoming. Throughout Pilgrimage Richardson both subverts and infinitely expands the traditional coming-of-age plot: she suggests that initiation does not follow a neat narrative arc but is rather an ongoing process, constant to continual revision. The idea of initiation as a continual process of ‘becoming’ suggests a theoretical frame for reading Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, Forster’s A Room with a View and Woolf’s The Voyage Out.