Becoming Others: Enacting the Transness of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

Becoming Others: Enacting the Transness of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

This conversation is presented in partnership with the Refocus Film Festival, a four-day celebration of the art of adaptation and hosted by Iowa City's nonprofit cinema, FilmScene. The 2nd annual Refocus Film Festival will take place in Iowa City October 12-15, 2023. Passes are on sale now , with individual tickets and full festival announcements coming in September. * In Mrs. Dalloway , Virginia Woolf describes Big Ben's punctuation of the hours as “irrevocable.” For a post-World War I London, sanctioned time marches on: stately and evenly paced. However, for the protagonists of Woolf's fictions, time shimmers: refractive, elusive, and phantasmagoric as the act of writing itself, endlessly prone to inspiration and subsequent revision with the passing of years. Specifically, for Orlando, in Woolf's eponymous titled book, time, gender, and the act of writing become both inextricably linked and trans: ever ongoing, moving across and beyond binaries with unbridled delight. And yet, the topic of Orlando's body as a trans body has never been so culturally or cinematically underscored until Paul B. Preciado's documentary Orlando, My Political Biography (2023) premiered at Berlinale this year. Best known for his auto-theory, Preciado recurrently merges gender, sex, and authorship on the page, including in Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era , where he writes, “I'm not taking testosterone to change myself into a man or as a physical strategy of transsexualism; I take it to foil what society wanted to make of me, so that I can write, fuck, feel a form of pleasure that is postpornographic.” Preciado thwarts preconceived notions of trans bodies' relationship to, and engagement with, pharmacology. Trans identity is understood as neither heteronormative nor hegemonic—it is the experience of “sexual plasticity,” living, and creating that Preciado celebrates in both his written work and in his film debut. Preciado's film is not solely a retelling of Woolf's ; it is also Preciado's experience as a trans man navigating state apparatuses. Preciado's documentary proceeds Sally Potter's 1992 feminist feature film, heretofore the only screen adaptation of Woolf's . Gorgeously shot and staged, the mise-en-scene in […]

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