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Virginia Woolf: Writing the World$
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Pamela L. Caughie and Diana L. Swanson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780990895800

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780990895800.001.0001

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Fashionable Misconceptions: The Creation of the East in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

Fashionable Misconceptions: The Creation of the East in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

(p.104) Fashionable Misconceptions: The Creation of the East in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando
Virginia Woolf: Writing the World

Matthew Beeber

Liverpool University Press

This essay argues that Woolf’s portrayal of Constantinople and of the East is a misrepresentation; there is no evidence to suggest that the fashion or culture of Turkey or the Ottoman Empire was ever more androgynous than that of England. Woolf’s purposefully inaccurate portrayal of Turkish fashion in Orlando serves as a critique of a Victorian literary tradition which portrayed the colonized East as feminized, androgynous, and Sapphic. This essay first discusses the role of satire in Orlando and the novel’s position in relation to the English literary tradition. Then, it examines the depiction of Eastern fashion in the Constantinople scenes of Orlando: the eroticization and over-sexualization of the East and the xenological discourse which dominated Victorian perceptions of the Other. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters provides insight into the Victorian misconceptions against which Woolf levies a critique through her satirical portrayal of Turkish fashion in Orlando.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Orlando, Turkish Embassy Letters, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Fashion, Androgyny, Orientalism, Satire

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