The feminine erotic ; and Gen(d)re bending: ambiguity and sexual androgyny in Virginia Woolf's Orlando

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sonya Elisa Blades (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Hephzibah Roskelly

Abstract: For this paper I propose an experimental application of Hélène Cixous's theory of écriture féminine to the erotic works of Anaïs Nin, particularly the erotic short stories written in the 1940s that are now found in her books Little Birds and Delta of Venus . I also refer to statements Nin made in her diaries concerning her conflicting emotions about creating her own style of writing that encompasses feminine writing. I believe Anaïs Nin illustrates Cixous's expression of a form of feminine writing and began the notion of écriture féminine before Cixous coined the term. My thesis counters the various critics who criticize Nin for supposedly copying the masculine pornographic descriptions of sexual encounters. In rebuttal, I argue that through her poetic portrayal of intimacy and sexual experience, through her diction, imagery, characterization, sentence structure, and plot sequences, Anaïs Nin uses a feminine form of writing in order to subvert the male depiction of the erotic experience that has reinforced the objectification, domination, and oppression of women's sexuality. Paper no. 2, Gen(d)re Bending: Ambiguity and Sexual Androgyny in Virginia Woolf's Orlando. The purpose of this paper is to argue that Virginia Woolf's main concern in Orlando is to show the problematic 'nature' of socially constructed norms. Woolf problematizes cultural norms by playing with established forms of sexual identity, genre, and the Romantic notion of the 'self' in order to highlight a kind of necessary multiplicity or "androgyny" to blur the boundaries of socially constructed roles. Ambiguity offers Woolf the means to express her doubts of the common acknowledgment of a fixed universal and essential state of being, therefore showing how Woolf's works may be viewed as feminist. Though it has been not been taken seriously by most Woolf scholars nor feminist theorists and has been described as mere escapism by Woolf herself, I use Orlando to show how Woolf expresses her philosophy of ambiguity, including both ambiguity of sex as "androgyny" and ambiguity of genre in order to show her reader the complicatedness of what is generally taken for granted as natural or normal. I also reference Woolf's pivotal essay A Room of One's Own, as well as many of her journal entries and letters to show how Woolf's view of Orlando and its importance to her as a writer changes during the process of its creation.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Anais Nin, Androgyny, Erotica, Feminism, Helene Cixous, Virginia Woolf
Nin, Anai¨s, $d 1903-1977.
Woolf, Virginia, $d 1882-1941. $t Orlando.
Erotica $x Feminist criticism.
Androgyny (Psychology) in literature $x Feminist criticism.
Feminism and literature.

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