Gender and Sexuality in Orlando, Uncensored

Essay by LaurakalafarskiCollege, UndergraduateA-, November 2014

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Laura Kalafarski

ENG 469


Gender and Sexuality in Orlando, Uncensored

Jill Channing's Magical Realism and Gender Variability in Orlando seeks to prove the following: Virginia Woolf's employment of the genre of magical realism allows room to ponder sexual diversity through gender variability in Orlando. Magical Realism is defined by Channing's contemporaries as a literary genre that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction. While Channing speculates that Woolf did not likely intend for the novel to be a work of magical realism (there was no such term in the early twentieth century anyway), "Orlando disrupts modern realist narrative expectations, destabilizes normative oppositions, blurs and transgresses boundaries, is an act of subversion, and most importantly...creates a space for diversity" (Channing 11).

Channing notes that most critics shy away from the term magical realism when discussing Orlando, instead preferring such classifications as satiric, comedic or mythic.

Whichever name is given to the genre(s) apparent in Orlando, it is clear that Woolf sought unconformity with the conventions of early twentieth century realist fiction, most specifically within the realms of gender and sexuality. Woolf essentially creates a new

"multi-genre" work that incorporates and reworks the conventional sub-genres: the novel, the poem, the historical account and the biography. Channing states, "Woolf's use of the multi-genre form is directly related to the creation of space for magic" (11). By incorporating several genres into one complete work, Woolf sets the stage for an

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unconventional novel, and thus is able to create a character of ambiguous sexuality and gender, not to mention evade censorship. Through several "magical" episodes of

gender reassignment and hetero/homosexual attractions, Orlando not only embodies different selves, but also different sexualities.

Channing delves deeper into the concept of the magical realist work, explaining that the very "touchstone"...