The Nomadic Distribution in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Deleuzian Reading

Document Type : Original Article


1 Professor of English Literature and Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

2 Associate Professor of English Literature and Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

3 Ph.D. Candidate of English Literature and Language, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.


The debates concerning Orlando’s magical sex transformation and its main concern with gender trouble are ever growing. Yet it seems a very significant fact is neglected in this debate, the extent the male Orlando is different from the female. Till Orlando is a man, he holds a very rigid and sedentary view of gender roles and reproduces the old cliché about men and women. As soon as he becomes a woman, she starts to view the world in a nomadic distribution. The present paper uses Deleuze’s theory of time and his notions of sedentary and nomadic to represent how time and sex transformation are connected to a split subjectivity and the birth of a new female subject/artist. The sex transformation is a tremendous event that splits Orlando into a before and an after. The male Orlando is not equal to "the act" which is to go beyond the spirit of his age and become an artist who is able to affirm androgynous and nomadic worldview. Through "becoming woman" Orlando abandons his sedentary view of the world and becomes nomadic and at last, completes her poem "The Oak Tree". Through metamorphosis and a split subjectivity, Orlando becomes equal to "the act".


Main Subjects

Berman, Jessica. “Is the Trans in Transnational the Trans in Transgender?”. Modernism/modernity, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2017, pp. 217-244.
Blair, Kirstie. “Gypsies and Lesbian Desire: Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf”. Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2004, pp. 141-166.
Boehm, Beth A. “Fact, Fiction, and Metafiction: Blurred Gen(d)res in ‘Orlando’ and ‘A Room of One's Own’”. The Journal of Narrative Technique, Vol. 22, No. 3, 1992, pp. 191-204.
Braidotti, Rosi. Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006.
Brown, Nathaniel. “The ‘Double Soul’: Virginia Woolf, Shelley, and Androgyny”. Keats-Shelley Journal, Vol. 33, 1984, pp. 182-204.
Caputi Daileader, Celia R. “Othello’s Sister: Racial Hermaphroditism and Appropriation in Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’”. Studies in the Novel, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2013, pp. 56-79.
Caughie, Pamela L. The Temporality of Modernist Life Writing in the Era of Transsexualism: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Einar Wegener’s Man Into Woman. 2013. Loyola University Chicago, MA thesis.
Colebrook, Clair. Gilles Deleuze. NY: Routledge, 2002.
Craps, Stef. “How to Do Things with Gender: Transgenderism in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando”. In Image Into Identity: Constructing and Assigning Identity in a Culture of Modernity. Ed. Michael Wintle. NY: Rodopi, 2006, pp. 175-190.
Crawford, Lucas. “Woolf's "Einfühlung": An Alternative Theory of Transgender Affect”. Mosaic special issue of QUEER/AFFECT, Vol. 48 No. 1, 2015, pp. 165-181.
Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Peter Patton. US: Colombia University Press, 1994.
--- What is Philosophy? Colombia University Press, 1994.
Gilbert, Sandra M. “Costumes of the Mind: Transvestism as Metaphor in Modern Literature”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1980, pp. 391-417.
Goldman, Jane. The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
González, Esther Sánchez-Pardo. “’What Phantasmagoria the Mind Is’: Reading Virginia Woolf's Parody of Gender”. Atlantis, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2004, pp. 75-86.
Haner, Sezgi Oztop. “The Transgender Experience: Cross-dressing and Sex-change in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando”. Gaziantep University Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 21, No, 4, 2022, pp. 2166-2174.
Hankins, Leslie K. Orlando: “’A Precipice Marked V’: Between ‘A Miracle of Discretion’ and ‘Lovemaking Unbelievable: Indiscretions Incredible’”. In Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings. Eds. Eileen Barrett and Patricia Cramer. US: New York University Press, 1997, pp. 180-202.
Helt, Brenda S. “Passionate Debates on ‘Odious Subjects’: Bisexuality and Woolf's Opposition to Theories of Androgyny and Sexual Identity”. Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 56, No. 2, 2010, pp. 131-167.
Hovey, Jamie. “‘Kissing a Negress in the Dark’: Englishness as a Masquerade in Woolf's Orlando”. PMLA, Vol. 112, No.3, 1997, pp. 393-404.
Kaivola, Karen. “Revisiting Woolf's Representations of Androgyny: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Nation”. Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 18, No.2, 1999, pp. 235-261.
Kelsey, Mary Electa. “Virginia Woolf and the She-Condition”. The Sewanee Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, 1931, pp. 425-444.
Kennard, Jean E. “Power and Sexual Ambiguity: The ‘Dreadnought’ Hoax, ‘The Voyage out, Mrs. Dalloway’ and ‘Orlando’”. Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 20, No.2, 1996, pp. 149-164.
Knopp, Sherron E. “’ If I Saw You Would You Kiss Me?": Sapphism and the Subversiveness of Virginia Woolf's Orlando”. PMLA, Vol. 103, No.1, 1988, pp. 24-34.
Lokke, Kari Elise. “‘Orlando’ and Incandescence: Virginia Woolf’s Comic Sublime”. Modern Fiction Studies. Vol. 38, No. 1, 1992, pp. 235-252.
McIntire, Gabrielle. Modernism, Memory and Desire: T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Meese, Elizabeth. “When Virginia Looked at Vita, What Did She See; or, Lesbian: Feminist: Woman – What’s the Differ(e/a)nce?”. In Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, 2nd ed. Eds. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl. New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997, pp. 467–81.
Melita, Maureen M. and Muareen M. Melita. “Gender Identity and Androgyny in Ludovico Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso’ and Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando: A Biography’”. Romance Notes, Vol. 53, No.2, 2013, pp. 123-133.
Parke, Tyler. Modernist Temporalities: Figures of Time in the Novels of Virginia Woolf. 2019.. Bates College, BA thesis.
Parkes, Adam. “Lesbianism, History, and Censorship: The Well of Loneliness and the Suppressed Randiness of Virginia Woolf's Orlando”. Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 40, No.4, 1994, pp. 434-460.
Parsons, Deborah. Theorists of the Modernist Novels: James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf. UK: Routledge, 2007.
Phillips, Kathy J. Virginia Woolf against Empire. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
Piggford, George. “’Who's That Girl?’: Annie Lennox, Woolf's "Orlando", and Female Camp Androgyny”. Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, Vol, 30, No.3, 1997, pp. 39-58.
Rado, Lisa. The Modern Androgyne Imagination: A Failed Sublime. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.
Raitt, Suzanne. Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Ronchetti, Ann. The Artist, Society and Sexuality in Virginia Woolf’s Novels. Ed. William E. Cain. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Ryan, Derek. Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life. US: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.
Ryan, Derek and Laci Mattison. “Introduction: Deleuze, Virginia Woolf and Modernism”. Deleuze Studies Vol. 7, No.4, 2013, pp. 421–426.
Snider, Clifton. “‘A Single Self’: A Jungian Interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’”. Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, 1979, pp. 263-268.
Somers-Hall, H. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. UK: Edinburgh University Press. 2013.
Spiropoulou, Angeliki. Virginia Woolf, Modernity and History: Constellations with Walter Benjamin. UK: Palgrave McMillan, 2010.
Swinford, Elise. “Transforming Nature: Orlando as Elegy”. In Virginia Woolf and the Natural World. Eds. Kristin Czarnecki and Carrie Rohman. US: Georgetown College, 2010, pp. 196-201.
Trautmann, Joanne. The Jessamy Brides: The Friendship of Virginia Woolf and V. Sackville- West. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973.
Vandivere, Julie. The Bastard’s Contention: Race, Property, and Sexuality in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando”. Modernism/Modernity Vol. 28, No. 1, January 2021, pp. 91-116.
Voss, Daniela. Conditions of Thought: Deleuze and Transcendental Ideas. UK: Edinburgh    University Press, 2013.
Watkins, Susan. “Sex Change and Media Change: From Woolf's to Potter's ‘Orlando’”. Mosaic, Vol. 31, No.3, 1998, pp. 41-59.
Williams, James. Gilles Deleuze’s Philosophy of Time: A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh University Press, 2011.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. US: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1957.
---. Orlando: A Biography. NY: Rosetta Books, 1928.
Ziarek, Ewa P. Feminist Aesthetics and the Politics of Modernism. NY: Colombia University Press, 2012.