Orlando De Virginia Woolf Essays

The one-­year anniversary of my rape I spent alone and staring into the bottom of a whiskey glass. I guess I wanted to commemorate the night by giving into sadness. So I sat in the shadows of my empty kitchen, and I let the grief seep in like a cold and deathly dampness—until it seized me and convulsed me. I was more broken than I knew inside. Me and all of my bad decisions.

Me and my million fractured faces: shuddering in the dark.

Once upon a time, I used to like myself. I used to delight in my own body: my face, hands, hair, knobby knees, wriggly toes, my breasts, laughing, crying, falling in love. Once upon a time, I used to enjoy attention from men. It is astonishing how fast that joy can plummet like a deadweight in your stomach, then curdle into fear—and sit there. For months, and then a year. After I was assaulted, my life became as if divided into two. There was Before and there was After. There was flashing hot and searing cold; innocence and shadows—muted words and screaming. The fissure was not immediately obvious. But it was there.

On the surface level, after that confusing night that ripped my life in two, I carried on like normal. I got out of bed each day and went to work. Every morning, I washed myself. I stood dutifully in the shower and let water cascade over my vacant head. I continued my makeup routine: darkening my eyes with kohl and patting concealer over flaws in my skin, appraising my reflection. I put on clothes—the same clothes I had collected carefully over years to present a desirable image of myself to the world. These clothes were what was in my wardrobe. So I continued wearing them.

I didn’t know it at the time, but in the months following my assault I was existing in a state of deadness. I was grieving, and squashing myself down. Eventually, one by one, the pretenses of self care fell by the wayside. I began wearing shapeless, unattractive sweaters that hid my body, and I let my hair grow tangled across my face. I was only distantly aware of it at the time, but I refused to think of myself as feminine. I wanted to be sexless.

You can tell yourself a hundred times that the events of one night past were inconsequential, but when that count rolls around to 365, the lie takes on a different hue. Whatever it was you were trying to forget, the year still comes full circle. Memories have a way of hurtling back at you with the gathered momentum of bricks flung round the sun. In any case, that was how it happened to me—how I learned that time does not move forward, but in a loop. The deeper your wounds, the more gravity distorts your progress. Some memories are so weighty, they become inevitable.

It was around this time that I discovered Orlando by Virginia Woolf. It is a book I have revisited many times since, and each time it spellbinds me. I have returned to its pages again and again, not only for the enchanting language and wit, but also for Woolf’s many insights into the experience of gender—of solitude and womanhood. She articulates notions that were not taught to me in adolescence. In my post­traumatic stupor, Orlando extended to me, like the gentle dipping of a palm frond, an avenue for understanding.

Orlando is a book about growing up. In the beginning, Orlando is a boy—effervescent with innocence and imagination. He likes to romp in the woods around the Queen’s court, where he lives (it’s 16th­century England), and to marvel at things like the color of moss and the nature of love. He admires poetry in a way that is both clumsy and endearing, and his own attempts at poetry are comically bad. As a 21st­century reader (and a clumsy poet, too), I fell in love with Orlando immediately. I recognized my younger self in his foolish enthusiasms—so much so it hurt.

Orlando is sentimental about girls. The young women at court enjoy his company, but he does not seem to understand them. This becomes evident when his infatuation with Sasha, a foreign princess, escalates into obsession. The girl offers a coy sort of friendship, but not enough to satisfy Orlando’s romantic visions. Behind Sasha’s provocative banter, Orlando suspects that she is keeping some part of herself hidden. There is a reticence in her that Orlando cannot tap, and this agitates him. He tortures himself. He writes sappy poems about a “flame hidden in the emerald,” and “the sun prisoned in a hill.” He longs to snatch the fire out of Sasha—so fascinated is he by her womanhood—which eludes him.

Finally, Orlando brings his heartsickness to a performance of Othello. In the fateful scene where Othello suffocates Desdemona in her bed, Orlando is on the edge of his seat. He imagines it is “Sasha he kills with his own hands.” He imagines strangling her. Just think about that for a minute: it is an extremely violent fantasy to appear in the mind of a young man who, so far, we have thought of as sweetness personified. However fleeting the fantasy might be, it marks a stopping point in my understanding of his love for Sasha. Up until this moment, I have identified with him in everything. But the impulse to strangle his lover in order to keep her strikes me as foreign and alarming.

I do not mean to suggest here that Orlando is capable of real violence (decidedly, he is not—we learn that later in the Turkish Wars), but the fantasy does betray a certain “masculine” impulse for possession and control. Unfortunately, it is not surprising. Nothing is more common in life and art than violence against women—especially women who resist containment. I know this violence well.

It was with a similar sense of proprietorship that my rapist pulled off my clothes, even as I tried to curl away. The more I shrank from him, the more arrogantly he pushed me down. Just hours before, I had allowed this man to pay for my drinks at the bar. In fact, I had even flirted with him and entertained the idea of something happening. But the way it did happen was all wrong. I wanted to step backwards, to deflect him with a joke and get my bearings—but he only wanted to plow right through me. He grabbed my breasts. With the conceit of a spoiled child. It was like he’d simply decided that it was time to help himself to something he felt that he deserved. His hair flopped with his exertions, and I turned my face away.

My rapist’s sense of entitlement unsettled me. I am ashamed to say: it overpowered me—the fact that, in the throes of what was supposed to be an intimate act, he so clearly did not see me as a person. He shoved his way inside of me with a selfishness I will never forget. And while I waited for it to be over, my only thoughts were of disgust—at myself for having lost control of the situation, yes—but more acutely: disgust at how pathetic and small and despicable a person has to be, to think, even for a second, that this was anything like love.

The reason I speak of love in the same breath as theft is that I believe this man was desperate to be loved. In the same way, perhaps, that the boy Orlando yearned for Sasha to return his love—the difference being that Orlando was only a teenager when he met Sasha, and not a full­grown man. Another difference being that Orlando never assaulted the girl. He only fixed her in the day­dreamy crosshairs of unfair expectation. The worst thing Orlando did to Sasha was ask her to elope with him. Ultimately, though, she abandons him—and goes back to her native Russia. The disappointment devastates Orlando.

This rupture marks the beginning of Orlando’s transformation, and the beginning of the rest of the story. First, there are three remarkable things that happen to him. One is that he falls into a deep depression, retreating from society and sleeping for unnaturally long stretches of time. The words Woolf uses to describe these long sleeps are intriguing:

If sleep it was, of what nature…? Are they remedial measures—trances in which the most galling memories, events that seem likely to cripple us forever, are brushed with a dark wing which rubs their harshness off and gilds them, even the ugliest, and basest, with a lustre, an incandescence? Has the finger of death to be laid on the tumult of life from time to time lest it rend us asunder? Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living? And then what strange powers are these that penetrate our most secret ways and change our most treasured possessions without our willing it? (68).

Woolf likens Orlando’s unnatural sleep to a temporary death, during which the pain of his first heartbreak gets cocooned deep inside him. His hibernation is the beginning of a metamorphosis: his very alchemy will change to incorporate the loss of Sasha. It is a highly poeticized—and yet, eerily accurate—description of what happens to trauma survivors in the wake of trauma. A void opens up, and then unspeakable things come out of the void. For Orlando, these things will alter the course of his life forever.

Of course, it is worth noting that a teenage boy’s first experience of heartbreak is not comparable as a trauma to real violence—or sexual assault, or war. At the same time, anyone familiar with Woolf’s biography knows that she herself survived years of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her two half­brothers. And if you have any inkling of what such experiences can do to the human psyche, the above passage from Orlando surely resonates on that level of spookiness.

There is an argument in literary theory that each reader’s interpretation is her own private labor and her own private truth. If you subscribe to such a way of reading, then I will say this: my interpretation of Orlando’s transformation, after losing Sasha, is that it is a metaphor for resilience in the face of overwhelming sadness.

The second change that manifests itself in Orlando is an odd sort of untethering in time. He wakes up after the shock of heartbreak to find that he has somehow slipped mysteriously out of sync with the normal ticking of the clock. Certain weeks seem to disappear from his mind faster than a flash, while others, like afternoons spent walking in the forest, and plucking blades of grass, dilate expansively into years. This happens to such a degree that it becomes like science fiction. Orlando stops ageing at the same rate as his peers, and he starts to move through time as a perpetual young man.

Orlando: A Biography is a novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A high-spirited romp inspired by the tumultuous family history of Woolf's lover and close friend, the aristocratic poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, it is arguably one of Woolf's most popular novels: a history of English literature in satiric form. The book describes the adventures of a poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history. Considered a feminist classic, the book has been written about extensively by scholars of women's writing and gender and transgender studies.

There have been several adaptations: in 1989 director Robert Wilson and writer Darryl Pinckney collaborated on a theatrical production. A film adaptation was released in 1992, starring Tilda Swinton as Orlando. Another stage adaption by Sarah Ruhl premiered in New York City in 2010. In 2016, composer Peter Aderhold and librettist Sharon L. Joyce premiered an opera based on the work at the Braunschweig State Theater.

Plot[edit]

The eponymous hero is born as a male nobleman in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. He undergoes a mysterious change of sex at the age of about 30 and lives on for more than 300 years into modern times without ageing perceptibly.

As a teenage boy, the handsome Orlando serves as a page at the Elizabethan court and becomes "favorite" of the elderly queen. After her death he falls deeply in love with Sasha, an elusive and somewhat feral princess in the entourage of the Russian embassy. This episode, of love and ice skating against the background of the celebrated Frost Fair held on the frozen Thames River during the Great Frost of 1608, when "birds froze in mid air and fell like stones to the ground", inspired some of Virginia Woolf's most bravura writing:

Great statesmen, in their beards and ruffs, despatched affairs of state under the crimson awning of the Royal Pagoda ... Frozen roses fell in showers when the Queen and her ladies walked abroad ... Near London Bridge, where the river had frozen to a depth of some twenty fathoms, a wrecked wherry boat was plainly visible, lying on the bed of the river where it had sunk last autumn, overladen with apples. The old bumboat woman, who was carrying her fruit to market on the Surrey side, sat there in her plaids and farthingales with her lap full of apples, for all the world as if she were about to serve a customer, though a certain blueness about the lips hinted the truth.[1]

The melting of the ice coincides with Sasha's unfaithfulness and sudden departure for Russia. The desolate Orlando returns to writing The Oak Tree, a long poem started and abandoned in his youth. He meets and hospitably entertains an invidious poetaster, Nicholas Greene, who proceeds to find fault with Orlando's writing. Later Orlando feels betrayed on learning that he has been lampooned in one of Greene's subsequent works. A period of contemplating love and life leads Orlando to appreciate the value of his ancestral stately home, which he proceeds to furnish lavishly. There he plays host to the populace.

Ennui sets in and the harassment of a persistent suitor, the tall and somewhat androgynous Archduchess Harriet, leads Orlando to look for a way to flee the country. He is appointed by King Charles II as ambassador to Constantinople. Orlando performs his duties well, until a night of civil unrest and murderous riots. He falls asleep for a period of days, resistant to all efforts to rouse him. Upon awakening he finds that he has metamorphosed into a woman – the same person, with the same personality and intellect, but in a woman's body. Although the narrator of the novel professes to be disturbed and befuddled by Orlando's change, the fictional Orlando complacently accepts the change. From here on, Orlando's amorous inclinations change frequently although she stays biologically female.

The now Lady Orlando covertly escapes Constantinople in the company of a Gypsy clan. She adopts their way of life until its essential conflict with her upbringing leads her to head home. Only on the ship back to England, with her constraining female clothes and an incident in which a flash of her ankle nearly results in a sailor's falling to his death, does she realise the magnitude of becoming a woman. She concludes it has an overall advantage, declaring "Praise God I'm a woman!" Back in England, Orlando is hounded again by the archduchess, who now reveals herself to be a man, the Archduke Harry. Orlando evades his marriage proposals. She goes on to live switching between gender roles, dressing alternately as both man and woman.

Orlando soon becomes caught up in the life of the 18th and 19th centuries, holding court with the great poets (notably Alexander Pope). Critic Nick Greene, apparently also timeless, reappears and promotes Orlando's writing, promising to help her publish The Oak Tree.

Orlando wins a lawsuit over her property and marries a sea captain, Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine. Like Orlando, he is gender non-conforming, and Orlando attributes the success of their marriage to this similarity. In 1928, she publishes The Oak Tree, centuries after starting it, and wins a prize. The novel ends as Orlando's husband's ship returns and, in the aftermath of her success, she rushes to greet him.

Inspiration[edit]

Woolf and Vita Sackville-West were both members of the Bloomsbury Group, which was known for its liberal views on sexuality. The two began a sexual and romantic relationship that lasted for a decade, and continued as a friendship long after that. Notably, this inspiration is confirmed by Woolf herself, who noted in her diary the idea of Orlando on 5 October 1927: "And instantly the usual exciting devices enter my mind: a biography beginning in the year 1500 and continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to the other"[2]

Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West's son, wrote, "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her."[3]

Analysis[edit]

In the novel, Woolf satirizes Sackville-West's fascination with the Romany people as it is the Romany caravan in the Balkans that first accepts Orlando as a woman, and it is hinted that it was a spell cast by the Romany witch that Orlando married that caused Orlando's transformation into a woman.[4] The Romany witch is named Rosita Pepita, which was also the name of Sackville-West's grandmother, a Spanish dancer.[5] However, Orlando, regardless of his/her sex remains an English aristocrat and cannot really adjust to the nomadic lifestyle of the Romany caravan as it wanders across the Balkans and Anatolia, as in real life Sackville-West fantasized about joining a Romany caravan, but did not really wish to give up the settled life of the aristocracy for living in poverty and to be object of popular hatred as the Romany were and are a people who belong nowhere.[6] In the novel, Woolf also satirizes British culture in the sense that "inversion" as lesbianism was then called was allowed as long as it was presented as a fantastical allegory that was only real in the sense that the book was about Sackville-West, but could not be realistic.[7] Woolf also intended the novel as compensation for the sense of loss often felt by Sackville-West who lost her beloved childhood home Knole House which went to a cousin and which she would have inherited if she had been a man; about her need to hide her sexuality for which she could have been imprisoned if knowledge of her sexuality become public knowledge; and about the unhappy end of her relationship with Violet Trefusis in 1920.[8] Sackville-West in a letter praised Woolf for compensation for her sense of loss, saying: "I am in no fit state to write to you...I only tell you that I am really shaken, which may seem to you silly and useless, but which is really a greater tribute than pages of calm appreciation...Darling, I don't know and scarcely even like to write how overwhelmed am I, how could you hung so splendid a garment on so poor a peg...Also, you have invented a new form of narcissism-I confess-I am in love with Orlando-this is a complication I had not foreseen".[9] In the book, Orlando as a woman wins control of her family estate, which bears a close resemblance to Knole House, which addressed Sackville-West sense of loss about losing the estate that she had grown up in and deeply loved only because she was a woman.[10] Likewise, Trefusis appears in the novel as the Russian princess Sasha, whom Orlando sincerely loves, but the responsibility for the failure of the relationship rests entirely with her, whereas in real life Sackville-West knew that the story she used as a reason for terminating her relationship with Trefusis, namely she had slept with her husband Major Dennys Trefusis was almost certainly false.[11] The picture of Sackville-West that Woolf presented as her alter-ego Orlando was not completely positive as Woolf felt only contempt for Sackville-West literacy abilities, regarding her as a mediocre writer as she wrote to her husband Leonard Woolf "she writes with a pen of brass".[12] The recurring image of the grey goose that Orlando chases after, but never captures over the centuries is an allegory for the ability to write a truly great novel that Sackville-West longed to do, but never managed.[13] Perhaps fortunately for herself, a bewildered Sackville-West never understood what the goose was a symbol of, writing to her husband Harold Nicolson: "What does the goose stand for? Fame? Love? Death? Marriage?".[14] For Woolf herself, the book was compensation for a sense of loss.[15] Woolf was often hurt by Sackville-West's promiscuity and unfaithfulness, and Orlando allowed her to have a more idealised version of Sackville-West that would belong to her forever.[16]

The American scholar Victoria Smith argued the book is about the impossibility of representing the female experience in its entirety as a recurring theme of the book is Orlando's inability to properly describe emotions, people and even such banal occurrences as a sunset.[17] Throughout the book, Orlando cannot describe Sasha or nature, the biographer cannot properly write up a description of Orlando, and the love which Orlando feels for Shelmerdine is referred to as undefinable.[18] When Orlando attempts to define love, he says to himself: "Every single thing, once he tried to dislodge it from his place in his mind, he thus cumbered with other matter like a lump of grass, which after a year at the bottom of the sea, is grown about with bones and dragon-flies, and the tresses of women's hair".[19] Likewise, when Orlando attempts to simply say the grass is green and the sky is blue, he instead finds himself thinking "...the sky is like the veils over which a thousand Madonnas have their hair fall; and the grass fleets and darkens like a flight of girls fleeing hairy satyrs for the woods".[20] Smith maintained whenever Orlando's attempt to say that the sky is blue and the grass is green, instead brings images of women, nature, classical mythology and religion into his mind, thus highlighting Woolf's viewpoint "...that the "natural"-the grass, the sky-already are encumbered with myths of and representations of women and their sexuality. Finally, the passage ends with precisely the conundrum of language that Woolf highlights: that even through the images used to convey the objects are "false", the object are nonetheless conveyed."[21] Smith argued that this rhetorical ambiguity that Woolf used was a commentary on "the love that dared not speak its name" as the book was meant to celebrate her love for Sackville-West while at the same time disguising it to save the two women from being prosecuted by the authorities (homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967).[22] Woolf intended the book to be therapeutic, to address the sense of loss felt by Sackville-West as well as herself, to provide a "spark" of hope to keep herself from drowning in she called in her diary "a great sea of melancholy".[23]

Woolf was often critical of British historiography, which at the time was largely concerned with political-military history, which she accused of neglecting the lives of women, which with the exceptions of leaders like Elizabeth I, Anne, and Victoria, were almost totally ignored.[24] The novel takes place over several ages of British history, namely the Renaissance, the Restoration, the Enlightenment, the Romantic, the Victorian and the present, and Woolf uses the various ages to mock theories of history.[25] Orlando's biographer says that her style of poetry become less florid as the 17th century went on, which he suggests was because the streets were cleaner and the dishes less showy.[26] Woolf's father, the historian Sir Leslie Stephen, whom she both loved and hated at the same time, had proposed in his book English Literature and Society in the Eighteen Century, a theory that what writers choose to write about reflects contemporary tastes, a "return to nature" as "literature must be produced by the class which embodies the really vital and powerful currents of thought which molds society".[27] That Orlando's biographer believes that it was changes in British cuisine and the condition of the countryside that had changed Orlando's style of writing is a reductio ad absurdum of Stephen's theories.[28] Stephen identified various writers, all of them men, as the "key" figures of an age, whereas his daughter wanted historians to pay attention to women writers that they usually ignored, and the unflattering picture of Pope that Woolf presents is a caricature of her father's theories (Stephen had identified Pope as the "key" writer of early Georgian England).[29] Likewise, when Orlando was a man, he had no hesitations about showing off his manuscript for The Oak Tree, but as a woman, she constantly hides it when visitors come, as Jane Austen was alleged to do with the manuscripts for her books, which was Woolf's way of satirizing the different behavior expected of male and female writers.[30] Stephen believed that great writers must work in "the spirit of the age", which led him in his book Hours in the Library to praise Sir Walter Scott as representing the "spirit" of the Romantic age while Charlotte Brontë was dismissed as a writer because she was out of touch with the "spirit" of the Victorian age.[31] Woolf satirizes her father's theories as in during the Victorian Age that Orlando marries, changes drastically the quality of her writings, and the very idea of being pregnant makes her ashamed, which so sharply differs from the way that the character had been portrayed before as to imply these changes in her personality are forced as she struggles to conform to the "spirit" of the Victorian era.[32]

At the same time, Woolf, though she was critical of many aspects of British life, felt a deep sense of affinity in her country, where the past seemed to live on in so many ways.[33] Woolf was inspired to write Orlando when Sackville-West took her to Knole House, to show her the place where she had grown up, that had belonged to the Sackville family for centuries, and as Sackville-West bitterly noted she would have inherited if only she had been born male.[34] During the course of their visit, a farmer came in with a wagon full of wood to be chopped up to heat Knole, which Sackville-West said had been done for hundreds of years, which gave Woolf the idea of the English past was not dead, but still alive, a theme that is expressed in Orlando by the ageless, timeless nature of the eponymous character.[35] That the 19th century begins with a heavy thunderstorm, and throughout the scenes set in the Victorian age it always seems to be raining, reflected Woolf's view of the Victorian era has a dark one in British history, as it was only with the Edwardian era that sunshine returns to Orlando.[36] As part of her attack on Victorian values, Woolf satirized the theories of the influential critic John Ruskin who saw the Renaissance as a period of moral and cultural decline, which he called a "frost".[37] On the contrary, Woolf depicted the parts of the book set in the Elizabethan-Jacobean era as one of rebirth and vitality, of a time when "the moon and stars blazed with the hard fixity of diamonds".[38] It during this period that Orlando first falls in love with the Russian princess Sasha, which leads to "the ice turned to wine in his veins, he heard the water flowing and the birds singing".[39] As an criticism of Ruskin, it was during the Great Frost of 1608 that Orlando first discovers his sexuality with Sasha, turning Ruskin's frost metaphor for the Renaissance on its head.[40]

That it was Constantinople that Orlando become a woman reflects the city's status in the 17th century as a melting pot of cultures with a mixed population of Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Sephardic Jews, Circassians, Sudanese, and other peoples from all over the Ottoman Empire, in short a place with no fixed identity that existed half in Europe and half in Asia, making the city the perfect backdrop for Orlando's transformation.[41] Furthermore, Constantinople had been founded by the Greeks as Byzantium in 7th century BC; had become the capital of the Roman empire in 324 AD when the Emperor Constantine the Great renamed the city after himself; for centuries had been seen as a bastion of Christianity against Islam; was taken by the Ottomans in a siege in 1453, becoming the capital of the world's most powerful Muslim empire; and was renamed Istanbul in 1924, making the city itself into a metaphor for shifting identities, whatever they be national, cultural, religious, gender, ethnic or sexual.[42] In the 17th century, Constantinople was Europe's largest city as well as one of the most wealthiest. The American scholar Urmila Seshagiri wrote that the "fixed British hegemonies" of the early chapters set in London and in the English countryside seem "fragile" when Orlando is confronted with the vast, teeming, wealthy city of Constantinople with its multi-ethnic, multi-religious population that appears as a far more powerful and greater city than London, which was Woolf's way of undermining the assumption widely held in 1928 Britain that the British empire was the world's greatest empire.[43] Sackville-West had lived in Constantinople in 1912-14 when Nicolson had been the Third Secretary at the British embassy and loved that city, which she viewed as a beautiful city full of diverse cultures and peoples. That Orlando's transformation occurs during the course of anti-Christian riots by the Muslim population of Constantinople is Woolf's attack on British imperialism.[44] By the second half of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire was in decline while the British empire was on the ascent, which is the precise time that Orlando changes sex.[45] Woolf believed that the "Eastern Question" as imperial rivalry for control of Constantinople, "the city of all the world's desire" as it sits at a strategic location where Europe and Asia meet to have been one of the main causes of the First World War, and by dating Orlando's transformation at the moment that the Ottoman Empire began to decline was a political point.[46] One of the main justifications for the British empire was the alleged need to protect white women from being raped by non-white men, and by having Lady Orlando escape from Constantinople without a man to protect her was an attack upon this theory.[47]

Seshagiri accused Woolf of engaging in "Orientalism" by having Orlando become a woman in Constantinople, arguing that Orlando's transformation is made dependent upon "the dual Otherness of race and place", portraying the Ottomans as a strange, exotic people that makes such a strange transformation possible.[48] As part of her accusation of racism against Woolf, Seshagiri argued though Orlando finds acceptance and equality with the Romany caravan, she nonetheless has a vision of the English countryside of "a great park-like space" in all four seasons of the year while staring at the barren hills of Anatolia and immediately realizes she belongs in England, not in this "savage land".[49] Seshagiri argues that because when Orlando arrives in London on a ship, she sees and marvels at all of the architecture built after the Great Fire of 1666 such as St. Paul's, Greenwich Hospital, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Pavilion, and the Houses of Parliament this is meant to show that the British empire is growing in strength and London is in a sense the center of the world, especially when contrasted with the "savage land" of Anatolia that is barren and devoid of beautiful architecture of London that Orlando has just left.[50] The American Celia Caputi Daileander likewise accused Woolf of racism, noting the novel begins with Orlando beheading a "Moor" (a term in Elizabethan England that described both Muslims and/or blacks) and causally kicking his head about.[51] Daileander observed that the "Moor" that Orlando kills is considered so unimportant that Woolf does not even bother to give him a name, though Orlando twice refers to the Moor he beheaded as a nigger later on in the book.[52] At the novel's climax in 1928, when Shelmerdine is flying a plane above the English Channel, Orlando bares her gleaming white breasts, which shine with such brightness in the moonlight as to guide him back to England.[53] The scholar Kathy Philips accused Woolf of racism, arguing that Orlando's white breasts, which shine so brightly, are symbol for the theory that to be white is be beautiful.[54] Dailender disagreed with this interpretation, stating Orlando's skin is more dark than white; argued that it was her pearls, not her breasts were really shining; and noted that there was siren-like the way that Orlando guides Shelmerdine back to England, which was not at all like the "angel-in-the-house" language associated to glorify femininity and the British Empire.[55]

Woolf also indirectly attacks Sigmund Freud's theory of penis envy-that women feel immense shame and horror at not being born with male genitalia-as when Orlando wakes up as a woman, she stands naked before a mirror and finds her new body perfectly acceptable without any sense of shame or horror at missing the penis she had when she was a man before going off for a bath, content with her vulva.[56] Later on, when Orlando marries Shelmerdine in the sexually repressive Victorian age, she is compared to a smuggler bringing contraband into the country, implying her marriage is not all it seems, which is both an allusion to Sackville-West's open marriage to the homosexual Nicolson and to Sackville-West's efforts to hide her lesbian affairs.[57]

Influence and recognition[edit]

Orlando was a contemporary success, both critically and financially, and guaranteed the Woolfs' financial stability.[58] It was generally viewed not just as high literature, but as a gossipy novel about Sackville-West. However, the New York Times review of the book acknowledged the importance of the work as an experiment into new forms of literature.[59]

The work has been the subject of numerous scholarly writings, including detailed treatment in multiple works on Virginia Woolf.[60] An "annotated" edition has been published to facilitate critical reading of the text.

The novel's title has also come to stand in some senses for women's writing generally, as one of the most famous works by a woman author that directly treats the subject of gender.[61] For example, a project on the history of women's writing in the British Isles was named after the book.[62]

The skating party on the Thames was featured in Simple Gifts, a Christmas collection of six animated shorts shown on PBS TV in 1977.

The novel has been adapted for theatre and film. In 1989 the American director Robert Wilson, and writer Darryl Pinckney collaborated on a theatrical production. A British film adaptation was released in 1992, starring Tilda Swinton as Orlando and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I.

A second theatre adaptation of Orlando, by Sarah Ruhl, premiered in New York 2010.[63] It subsequently premiered for the Sydney Theatre Company in Australia at the Sydney Opera House starring Jacqueline McKenzie in the title role.[64]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^Same Jordison, "Winter reads: Orlando by Virginia Woolf", The Guardian, December 5, 2011.
  2. ^Woolf, Virginia (2012). Delphi Complete Works of Virginia Woolf. Delphi Classics. ISBN 9781908909190. 
  3. ^Blamires, Harry (1983) A Guide to twentieth century literature in EnglishRoutledge, p. 307, ISBN 978-0-416-36450-7.
  4. ^Blair, Kirstie "Gypsies and Lesbian Desire: Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf" pages 141-166 from Twentieth Century Literature, Volume 50, No. 2 Summer 2004 page 204.
  5. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 64
  6. ^Blair, Kirstie "Gypsies and Lesbian Desire: Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf" pages 141-166 from Twentieth Century Literature, Volume 50, No. 2 Summer 2004 page 204.
  7. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 60.
  8. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 63.
  9. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 63.
  10. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 64.
  11. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 65.
  12. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 66.
  13. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 66.
  14. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 66.
  15. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 67.
  16. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 67.
  17. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 pages 59-60 & 67-69.
  18. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 68.
  19. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 69.
  20. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 69.
  21. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 69.
  22. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 69.
  23. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 70.
  24. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 62-63
  25. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 63.
  26. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 63.
  27. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 pages 63-64.
  28. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 64.
  29. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 64.
  30. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 64.
  31. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 65.
  32. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 65.
  33. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 70.
  34. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 70.
  35. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 70.
  36. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 pages 65-66.
  37. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 pages 67.
  38. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 67.
  39. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 pages 68.
  40. ^De Gay, Jane "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando" pages 62-72 from Critical Survey, Volume 19, No. 1, 2007 page 67.
  41. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 180
  42. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 180
  43. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 180
  44. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 64
  45. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 64
  46. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 64
  47. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 pages 64-65
  48. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 182
  49. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 184
  50. ^Seshagiri, Urmila Race and the Modernist Imagination, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010 page 184
  51. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 56
  52. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 pages 56 & 62.
  53. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 70.
  54. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 70.
  55. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 70.
  56. ^Daileander, Celia Caputi "Othello's Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation In Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 56-79 from Studies in the Novel, Volume 45, No. 1, Spring 2013 page 64
  57. ^Smith, Victoria ""Ransacking the Language": Finding the Missing Goods in Virginia Woolf's Orlando" pages 57-75 from The Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 29, Issue 4, Summer 2006 page 70.
  58. ^"Virginia Woolf's Orlando: The Book as Critic". www.tetterton.net. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  59. ^"Mrs. Woolf Explores the "Time" Element in Human Relationships". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  60. ^See, e.g., Alice van Buren, The Novels of Virginia Woolf: Fact and Vision Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.
  61. ^For example: Jacqueline Harpman, Orlanda, Paris: Grasset, 1997.
  62. ^"Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present". orlando.cambridge.org. 
  63. ^"Orlando". The New York Times
  64. ^"Orlando". Sydney Theatre Company. Retrieved 2018-02-12. 

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