The Mirrored Monster and Becoming-Wolf: Reflections on Desire in Woolf and Braidotti
Waves and water, the lens of a lighthouse, a lady’s looking-glass: reflecting surfaces abound in the writings of Virginia Woolf. These figurations, in turn, are repeated as a formative image, a reflective motif, in the theory of Rosi Braidotti. This article explores the material implications of both authors’ mirrors, arguing that they distort repronormative depictions of women as maternal figures. Particularly, I view the autopoietic theorization of desire in Braidotti’s oeuvre through the lens of Woolf’s major fiction and non-fiction from 1927 to 1941. With references to works including A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938), and particularly Between the Acts (1941), I argue that Woolf’s monstrous images inform Braidotti’s own writing, especially her 2002 monograph Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. Yet it is vital to stress that these feminist-materialist echoes exceed binarized understandings of reflections. Alternating between reverence for motherhood, suspicion of procreation, and criticism of reproductive services/technologies, both writers suggest that women’s reproductive health cannot be neatly determined by one overarching narrative. They advance an emerging concept of reproductive agency where abortive desires are dangerous and dynamic, steeped both in histories of gestational violence and feminist potential.