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Modernist Life HistoriesBiological Theory and The Experimental Bildungsroman$
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Daniel Aureliano Newman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474439619

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439619.001.0001

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‘Tampering with the Expected Sequence’: Heterochrony and Sex Change in Orlando

‘Tampering with the Expected Sequence’: Heterochrony and Sex Change in Orlando

Chapter:
(p.108) 4 ‘Tampering with the Expected Sequence’: Heterochrony and Sex Change in Orlando
Source:
Modernist Life Histories
Author(s):

Daniel Aureliano Newman

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439619.003.0005

This chapter reads the fantastical sex-change and longevity in Woolf’s Orlando in relation to contemporary experiments on the genetic and developmental determination of sex, notably the concept of heterochrony. The chapter argues that Orlando’s transformation from man to woman should be read literally, as a metamorphic change in the protagonist’s body; the embodied nature and the specific manifestations of the metamorphosis are designed to counter the recapitulatory plot that inheres in sexological discourses of the day. The corporeality of the Orlando’s development is rarely acknowledged in queer and feminist studies, which tend to emphasise gender and performance at the expense of sex and embodiment. By linking Woolf’s novel to contemporary biology, I complicate this common view and provide a positive alternative to the correlative argument that Orlando’s sex change amounts to a mere wish-fulfillment fantasy.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Orlando, Sexology, Havelock Ellis, Julian Huxley, Feminism, Heterochrony, Embodiment, Intersexuality, Sex change

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