Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography . New York : Crosby Gaige, 1928.

An experiment in blending fiction and biography, Orlando is dedicated to Woolf’s lesbian lover Vita Sackville-West and allegorizes her life story as that of a man born in Elizabethan England who remains forever young and is transformed into a woman, living into the contemporary world in that form.

Members of the Bloomsbury Group are defined in the public memory by their explorations of sex and sexuality in their private lives and their works, by which they distanced themselves from the unhealthy repression of sex that they saw in Victorian England. The extramarital affairs of John Maynard Keynes and Duncan Grant, Grant and Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington (and Keynes), and Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West provoked controversy, but also bound the members together despite their many aesthetic and ideological differences. Indeed, their insistence on the primacy of sexual passion in the human condition was a wellspring of some of the greatest works to emerge from Bloomsbury, such as Woolf’s Orlando . Woolf’s feminist works such as A Room of One’s Own and her discussions of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, and Strachey’s open discussions of the impact of the sexual life on his biographical subjects also broke new ground for the understanding of sex and gender roles in the twentieth century.

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Last modified December 18, 2008 9:12:54 AM EST