Jacques Lacan and Susan Bordo and the Social Construction of Identity in Virginia Woolf’s “The New Dress”

Iraj Montashery


"The New Dress" is Virginia Woolf's short story about Mabel Waring who attends a social gathering wearing a new yellow dress. The story is written in a stream-of-consciousness fashion as it describes Mabel's thoughts and actions while she is at the party. According to Lacan’s tripartite model of the human mind, Virginia Woolf’s main protagonist in this story, Mabel, is entrapped in inevitable Symbolic order. She is a desiring subject who has left the fullness of the Imaginary order and has entered into the social realm of language. The ‘lack’ which has permeated her life is a central fact regarding her life. Throughout her life, Mabel develops a fragmentary, split, and divided self based on Others’ responses to her. She is unable to interpret those innumerous contradictory responses towards herself. Consequently, she is constructed as a torn and divided desiring subject entrapped in a phallocentric Symbolic order.


Subject; Identity; Social Construction; Body; Symbolic; Desire;

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