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'In Company of a Gipsy'

The 'Gypsy' as Trope in Woolf and Brontë

Abby Bardi

Halfway through Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928), the title character, who lives for over three hundred years, wakes up and discovers that he has become a woman. Although Woolf evidently does not intend us to take this novel entirely seriously, it is clear from the contemporaneous A Room of One’s Own that she is quite serious about deconstructing the boundaries of gender; in Orlando, she calls its categories into question by depicting them as permeable, even arbitrary. In so doing, she flies in the face of her Victorian forebears, as was her wont, critiquing and complicating the prevailing model of male/female as binary opposition.3 Orlando’s sudden, mysterious transformation from male to female initially appears to reflect this binary: ‘Orlando was a man till the age of thirty; when he became a woman, and has remained so ever since’ (139). However, his/her transition is complicated when Orlando enters into a somewhat indeterminate state, escaping from both Constantinople and gender by running away with a ‘gipsy tribe’ (140).

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Abby Bardi, Sophie Blanch, Sarah Dillon, Jane de Gay, Ann Heilmann, Angela Hubler, Mark Llewellyn, Patricia Pulham, Leigh Wilson and Alison Winch

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