Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Andrea Nicole Ipjian
Title When the Body Speaks: Virginia Woolf and Luce Irigaray's Metaphors of the Body
Department English & Women's Studies
Advisors Mimi Dixon, Heather Wright, and Robin Inboden
Year 2009
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (284 KB)

Both Virginia Woolf and Luce Irigaray re-envision the world through bodily metaphor to achieve a more truthful expression of their experience as women. Juxtaposed against each other, Woolf's and Irigaray's works are analyzed as literary texts with close attention to their use of spatial metaphors relating specifically to the female body and their power to create linguistic change for silenced women. The decades between the work of Woolf and Irigaray indicate that telling the truth of the female body is an ongoing social process of acknowledging and reinforcing women's potential and achievement. To illustrate this point, this paper looks at and analyzes the metaphors used in Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Mrs. Dalloway, and Orlando and Irigaray's Speculum, An Ethics of Sexual Difference, and This Sex Which Is Not One to describe their interaction with female expression.

Woolf worked to distance herself from the male authority that dominates language and writing by using androgynous concepts and metaphors to combine the masculine concept of the lecture with more feminine modes of speaking. This paper examines Woolf's use of three metaphors to explore gender and bodies: the androgynous and fantastical Orlando, the room (a room inhabited solely by a woman), and the taxi (a space that men and women can inhabit together). Woolf's larger vision of cultural androgyny in which men and women are not divided is complemented by Irigaray's notion of thinking through the body. Irigaray defamiliarizes the language often associated with the body in order for women to enter public space as equal subjects instead of as the object and the Other. More than just a physical space, Irigaray sees the female body as a lens through which to understand women's experience which allowed her to use metaphors of the body, like the vagina and mucous, to talk about language.

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