“Everything Is Out of Place”: Virginia Woolf, Women, and (Meta-)Historical Biofiction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Starting from Virginia Woolf’s assertion in Orlando: A Biography (1928) that “when we write of a woman everything is out of place,” this chapter argues that Woolf’s spatial metaphor foregrounds the gendered nature of traditional prose narratives and the need for new (meta-)narratives for women. As a meta-historical biofiction, Orlando itself offers a model of a trialectical narrative which brings together biography, history, and fiction. Beginning with an engagement with recent theories of biofiction, the chapter is then divided into three sections. The first section discusses the theorisation of historical biographical fiction and borrows the term “trialectic” from cultural geography to argue for a trialectical reading of historical biofiction which can hold in balance the three modes of writing—fiction/biography/history. The second section discusses Woolf’s Orlando and Flush (1933) as meta-historical biofictions which develop Woolf’s innovative thinking about the relationship between fiction, biography, and history. The third section focuses on what has become a biofictional genre in its own right: novels which take Virginia Woolf herself as a character. It reads a selection of novels to show how they move Woolf and/or her characters “out of place” and then warns of the dangers of putting Woolf “in her place.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining Gender in Biographical Fiction
EditorsJulila Novak, Caitríona Ní Dhúill
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ChapterChapter 2
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-09019-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-09018-9
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Life Writing
ISSN (Print)2730-9185
ISSN (Electronic)2730-9193


  • Biofiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Meta-historical biofiction
  • Histriography
  • Virginia Woolf


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