In Orlando, Virginia Woolf creates something of a fantasy of gender fluidity, in which the protagonist, based on her friend and lover Vita Sackville-West, can switch genders while maintaining a consistent identity and personality. 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.”
Write a paper on addressing the following questions:
What rhetorical elements of fantasy or romance does Woolf use in the telling of Orlando? What does the fact that Orlando’s freedom comes largely from privilege and wealth tell us about Woolf’s historical/cultural context? Based on the portrayals of gender in her work, does Woolf believe that gender has bearing on an individual’s identity? What messages about gendered social and economic practices does Woolf suggest? How might the vision presented in “A Room of One’s Own,” in which Woolf pleas for literal and figurative space for women writers, be received differently by audiences of different economic means or racial backgrounds?