Virginia Woolf's Orlando

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For this meetup, we are travelling through centuries and genders by reading Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young nobleman at the beginning of the story and a modern woman three centuries later. The story of Woolf’s gender-fluid and superhuman heroine is about much more than a single individual. As a work of political satire and feminist fantasy, Orlando laid the groundwork for today’s cultural landscape, in which the boundaries of both gender and literary genre are more porous than ever.

Through a protagonist who, over the course of several centuries, takes multiple lovers and writes reams of poetry in every possible style, Woolf makes a joyful case for the transgression of all limits on desire, curiosity, and knowledge. Yet at the same time, Orlando constantly runs up against the limits of that freedom, exposing the persistent vise-grip of patriarchy even on a character blessed with the privileges of wealth, beauty, and close-to-eternal youth. Woolf invites us to imagine what it would feel like to escape, and yet over and over again, reminds us that we are trapped.