Marco Canani

A Tentative Quest for Gender Identity: Elements of Queer Discourse in Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room and Between the Acts

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Keywords: discursive practices, queer theory, sexual politics, Virginia Woolf

Modernism was marked by a deep concern with sexuality and gender identities. Ellis's and Carpenter's works were pioneering in their attempt to disentangle the hard knot of heteronormativity, while Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde were regarded by some as a threat to society because they had taken over "the traditional idiosyncrasies of the feminine rôle" (Lewis 1989: 244). This article will argue that the sexual politics embedded in the works of Virginia Woolf anticipate the discourse of sexual identity formulated by queer theory. Depicted as the object of both heterosexual and bisexual desire, the protagonist of Jacob's Room (1922) explores the multifaceted nature of gender identity while Between the Acts (1941) deals with issues of gender and sexual desire within a well-defined cultural milieu.

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