Virginia Woolf

Orlando: How Virginia Woolf revolutionized life overnight?

The rubric of the essay is derived from a quotation mark by Virginia Woolf, that is, „I want to revolutionise life in a night.” I intend to lucubrate on a few points of how her fresh Orlando fulfilled that desire of hers and how it uncovers non merely a literary revolution but much more beyond that. Orlando: A Biography, published on 11 October 1928 [ 1 ] , is possibly non the most celebrated book written by Woolf but it is surely a stylistically influential work and besides an of import milepost in the history of adult females ‘s authorship and gender surveies. She played a important function in the modernist literary motion – which peaked in Europe between 1900 and the 1920s – along with Knut Hamsun, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, the latter being considered the “ultimate Modernist” . In her books such as Mrs. Dalloway ( 1925 ) and To the Lighthouse ( 1927 ) she successfully developed Joyce ‘s bequest: the watercourse of consciousness technique. Originally it is a psychological term coined by American psychologist and philosopher William James in his book The Principles of Psychology ( 1890 ) “to denote the flow of interior experiences. Now an about indispensable term in literary unfavorable judgment, it refers to that technique which seeks to picture the countless ideas and feelings which pass through the mind.” [ 2 ]

Although the writer herself called the novel a life it is non rather true. Bing a modernist, Woolf broke the conventions of composing fiction and non-fiction in an ebullient manner, parodying a series of genres including the traditional Victorian lifes that emphasize facts and truth in their topics ‘ lives. Conrad Aiken says: “There is therefore an of import component of ‘spoof ‘ in Orlando: Mrs Woolf seemingly wants us to cognize that she does non herself take the thing with the least seriousness-that she is drawing legs, maintaining her lingua in her cheek, and winking, now and so, a rather shameless and tremendous wink.” [ 3 ]

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Earlier I stated that though its rubric suggests a life, it is in fact a semi-biographical novel set in England ( except for – if we consider that the fresh Begins during the reign of Elizabeth I and ends in 1928 – a reasonably short period which the supporter spends as an embassador in Constantinople and so as a adult female with the Gypsy kin ) . It is capturing even if one does non cognize about the background but I am convinced that it can be – to some extent – read as a Roman a clef ; in other words as cabal, that is, a novel depicting existent life behind a frontage of fiction. As Woolf herself said: „Every secret of a author ‘s psyche, every experience of his life, every quality of his head is written big in his works” therefore it is non merely an inspiring literary work but likely the writer ‘s most accessible piece of art as good. Consequently, it is of great importance to me to uncover the connexion between her personal life and the novel. I have another ground to delve deep into Woolf ‘s life – for which the reader may hold to pardon me – : sheer wonder of the life of such an extraordinary head.

Orlando was half based on the life of Vita Sackville-West [ 4 ] , a fellow English writer and poet with whom Woolf met through the Bloomsbury Group [ 5 ] . As a victory to this matter and the influence Sackville-West had on her life, Woolf presented her with the novel. As Sackville-West ‘s boy, Nigel Nicolson said, Orlando is “ the longest and most charming love-letter in literature ” . In the novel Vita appears as Orlando ( she was switching between of all time so many functions merely like the supporter ) , ‘The Oak Tree ‘ a verse form written by Orlando mentioning to Sackville-West ‘s award-winning verse form ‘The Land ‘ ; and Orlando ‘s matter with Princess Sacha stand foring the relationship with Violet Trefusis [ 6 ] which had the most permanent consequence on Sackville-West ‘s personal life.

My thought is that Orlando is a revolutional experiment non merely in a literary but in a nonliteral manner as good, that is, to pick a human being and allow this entity experience life entirely, as it is, to happen its significance but without the “side effects” of one ‘s gender or the societal conventions of one ‘s coevals by emancipating it from the restraints of clip and sex.

By these alleged side effects I mean that throughout history ( and even presents ) work forces and adult females were treated in a really different manner therefore it would n’t be half as interesting as it is if Orlando ‘s sex would non alter. When exchanging from male to female Orlando experienced both manfully and womanly virtuousnesss, in other words: to see things from two really different angles, two angles that are both present in everyone, proposing that male and female functions are non biological, but social. Besides, through his life we can follow how the significances of maleness and muliebrity had altered. Woolf said: „If we compare the image of Orlando as a adult male with that of Orlando as a adult female we shall see that though both are undoubtably one and the same individual, there are certain alterations. The adult male has his manus free to prehend his blade, the adult female must utilize hers to maintain the satins from stealing from her shoulders. The adult male looks the universe full in the face, as if it were made for his utilizations and fashioned to his liking. The adult female takes a askance glimpse at it, full of nuance, even of suspicion.”

She makes another statement on the subject: „Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a hesitation from one sex to the other takes topographic point, and frequently it is merely the apparels that keep the male or female similitude, while underneath the sex is the really opposite of what it is above.”

There are two perfect illustrations in the novel of the quotation mark above: one is the first line in which Woolf writes „He — for there could be no uncertainty of his sex, though the manner of the clip did something to mask it — was in the act of sliting at the caput of a Moor which swung from the rafters.” ; and besides when returning to England, Orlando learns that Archduchess Harriet is truly a adult male: Archduke Harry. Although the alteration is different from Orlando ‘s as the Archduke had ever been a adult male, still he deceived Orlando with his visual aspect, that is, merely the apparels kept the female similitude and underneath the sex was rather the antonym. Let me now portion a personal experience on the subject: in 1992 there was a film shooting based on the novel, directed by Sally Potter and it starred creative persons such as Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane and Charlotte Valandrey. Queen Elizabeth ‘s function was played by Quentin Crisp of whom I ‘d ne’er heard until so. At first I found the name Quentin a spot unusual for a adult female but I watched the film several times and I was content with that she truly did look like an old adult female. A few hebdomads subsequently it occurred to me that I know nil about her and when I looked her up on Wikipedia to my atrocious surprise I realized that she is really a adult male.

By maintaining the promise he made as a immature adult male and life for over 300 old ages Orlando experiences the conventions – some as a adult male, some as a adult female – of each century and of several civilizations and so he – or she for that affair – is non under the influence of merely one period of history but as he is introduced into each new age, he tries to suit into his new environment which after some clip becomes oppressive to him, turning tired of altering himself to suit those around him and eventually, when – as a female in the 20th century – ranges adulthood by going an independent head, she resists conforming to society. As Orlando himself says: „Some we know to be dead even though they walk among us ; some are non yet born though they go through all the signifiers of life ; other are 100s of old ages old though they call themselves thirty-six.”

In my sentiment the fantastic thing about this literary experiment is that, so to talk, Woolf gave Orlando a opportunity “to look life in the face, ever, to look life in the face, and to cognize it for what it is… at last, to love it for what it is, and so to set it away” and non many writers grant their supporters such gift. Although everything is traveling through indispensable alterations there is something that remains a solid point throughout the novel: Orlando ‘s fondness for poesy and his ain verse form, The Oak Tree which is a record of his internal life and ripening – as Orlando ‘s life is the record of the ripening of England.


Woolf, V. ( 1992 ) . Orlando, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-953659-7

Cuddon, J.A. ( 1999 ) . Dictionary of Literary Footings & A ; Theory, Penguin Books ISBN-13: 978-0-140-51363-9

James, William ( 1890 ) . The Principles of Psychology. Retrieved January 6, 2010 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Lavender, C. ( 1997 ) . Virginia Woolf, Orlando ( 1928 ) : On Gender Bending. Retrieved November 27, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Tetterton, K. ( 1995 ) . Virginia Woolf ‘s Orlando: The Book as Critic. Retrieved November 29, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Virginia Woolf quotes. Retrieved January 5, 2010 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

What precisely is Modernism in literature? in The AnswerBank: art & A ; literature. Retrieved January 6, 2010 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

SparkNotes: Orlando. Retrieved November 17, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

goodreads: Quotation marks by Virginia Woolf. Retrieved November 29, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia: Virginia Woolf. Retrieved November 29, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia: Vita Sackville-West. Retrieved November 29, 2009 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia: Bloomsbury Group. Retrieved January 6, 2010 from hypertext transfer protocol: //

[ 1 ] Interestingly the publication day of the month is besides the shutting line of the novel.

[ 2 ] A.J. Cuddon, Dictionary of Literary Footings & A ; Theory ( Penguin Books, 1999 ) , 866

[ 3 ] Robin Majumdar and Allen Mclaurin ( ed. ) , Virginia Woolf: The Critical Heritage ( London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975 ) , 235

[ 4 ] Victoria Mary Sackville-West, The Hon Lady Nicolson, CH ( 9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962 ) , best known for her novels The Edwardians ( 1930 ) , All Passion Spent ( 1931 ) and her Hawthornden Prize-winning narrative verse form The Land ( 1927 )

[ 5 ] “The Bloomsbury Group or Bloomsbury Set was a group of authors, intellectuals and creative persons who held informal treatments in Bloomsbury throughout the twentieth century. This English collective of friends and relations lived, worked or studied near Bloomsbury in London during the first half of the 20th century. Their work profoundly influenced literature, aesthetics, unfavorable judgment, and economic sciences every bit good as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacificism, and sexuality.”

[ 6 ] Violet Trefusis nee Keppel ( 6 June 1894 – 29 February 1972 ) was an English author and socialite, girl of courtesan Alice Keppel, a kept woman of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.


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