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A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
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A Room of One's Own (original 1929; edition 1991)

by Virginia Woolf

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7,11770505 (4.11)339
Member:writestuff
Title:A Room of One's Own
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:Harcourt Brace & Company (1991), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 125 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Essays

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A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)

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Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
I read an excerpt of this for school and it was very enlightening. I should like to read the entire work.
  Laella | Jun 14, 2014 |
A complex and humane polemic which is a bracing reminder of the winds against which women like Woolf bravely fought in the early twentieth century. ( )
  dazzyj | Apr 27, 2014 |
4.5/5

This is a lovely, lovely introduction to feminism, full of wit and insight and the incomparable prose of the inimitable Woolf. Not perfect, and indeed there are a few bones I'd have loved to pick with her, but even with those this book is a boon to humanity.

Between bouts of beauteous imagery and fantastic meanderings of thought and form, we have many a discussion on the different subtleties by which the patriarchy in England inherited a history, controlled the present, and in Woolf's time is especially keen on striding forth into the future. The further back in history, the more sapped and stricken the place for women, lack of education and early marriage and many a birthed child making for near nonexistence in the history books. As Woolf hypothesizes, a sister of Shakespeare would have been born a genius, lived in a stunted suspense, and ultimately killed herself out of frustrated potential. Woman was an object to be written on, and the only hope lay in men potentiating the self who took charge of her own fate. As can be seen, the likelihood of this was low, and the chance of a woman escaping the just as damaging idealized portrayal was even lower.

Further on, you have the patriarchal ideologies, the lack of historic representation, the social gatekeepers, every single individual male or female who saw the changing times in regards to women and rose up in protest. Even those who desire progress set their sights too low, conditioned as they are by the public and its 'experts' on women, all of them male and very few of them respecting the other half of the population as fully human. Woolf is especially adept at observing this unending of cycle of men pointing out to women their insignificance in the realm of both history and public life in order to maintain the same, an oppressive status quo aided by literature and its then burgeoning reaction to suffrage movements of the time. If women are restricted both in their education and their experiences of life, and the little education they manage through autodidactism is hardboiled in masculine tropes, what is she supposed to feed her dreams of the future and fictioning with?

All of that is well on good on Woolf's part. However, Woolf was a writer very much within her own mind, a mind quick and keen to an extraordinary degree but, ultimately, a single mind. We are blessed that she was endowed with a legacy early on, thus giving her years and years to hone her craft and subsequently publish some of the rarest jewels that ever graced the stage of literature, but it is that fortune that dictates her idea of progress as contained within these pages.

Money and time alone are great aids indeed, but there is more to good writing than the purest of passive ideals and unlimited free time. Woolf writes of an author disturbed by as little of the meaner things of life as possible, and decries the slightest hint of authors working out their issues and dissatisfaction within their works. I myself am biased in viewing literature as a powerful influence on reality and the realms of social justice, but the classism and borderline elitism are too much to ignore. Also, Woolf could have used some self-observation regarding suffusion of her own writing with male favoritism, especially in regards to giving more credit to the women who battled in realms both fictional and political for the rights she enjoyed at the time of this composition, and continued to battle long after these lectures were over.

However. Of the 292 books in my lists that were published before this book, 31 of them were written by women. I wish Woolf had lived long enough to see "...that elaborate study of the psychology of women by a woman," (just get used to the fact that I'm going to be plugging [b:The Second Sex|457264|The Second Sex|Simone de Beauvoir|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327978178s/457264.jpg|879666] for the rest of my days, and we'll all be happy) and all her seeds of contemplation brought to a gorgeous bloom, but here she penned a marvelous beginning. We may not have been graced with Shakespeare's biological sister in our halls of the written word, but here we have her equal. ( )
  Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
Essentially an essay on feminism. Woolf explores historical women writers and her contemporaries. Looking at their works, their personal situations and compares to male writers in similar times. In particular how men are afforded more advantages to successfully write and very few women are provided any opportunity at all, much less an education. She also looks at how women writers are viewed, specifically looked down on and those who are extremely successful are seen as oddities. Woolf makes cases for far less renowned women writers who were provided little education, lack of a work environment (outside a kitchen) and makes a case for how these women are possibly even more amazing than their more famous contemporaries because of what they can do given their society imposed constraints.

The book took a little to get its feel and where Woolf was going, but once you were there it was enjoyable. ( )
  rayski | Feb 22, 2014 |
It almost seems ridiculous for me, lowly college student, to presume to judge a work of Virginia Woolf's. Sacrilegious, even. But, ah well, my opinion is what it is.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, or "extended essay," I suppose it technically is. Writing in 1928, Woolf proposes that a woman must have a room of her own and "five hundred a month," or rather, the ability to properly contemplate and the authority to think for herself, in order to create. More specifically in order to write. Her observations were thought-provoking and sometimes troubling relatable to the state of literature today. A couple of passages in particular startled me with their modern relevance:

"Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes 'trivial'. And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battle-field is more important than a scene in a shop--everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists."

^^That is so precisely the (Jennifer Weiner) argument being had today over the merits of so-called "chick-lit."

"Making a fortune and bearing thirteen children--no human being could stand it. Consider the facts, we said. First there are nine months before the baby is born. Then the baby is born. Then there are three or four months spent in feeding the baby. After the baby is fed there are certainly five years spent in playing with the baby...If Mrs Seton (the mother), I said, had been making money, what sort of memories would you (the child) have had of games and quarrels? What would you have known of Scotland, and its fine air and cakes and all the rest of it?"

^^Again, that is so the modern working mother struggle, in a nutshell. Parentheses in that passage are mine.

There were flaws, of course. I don't know how much Woolf's advice could help very poor or non-Western women. Some bits were convoluted/a bit boring. She dissed my girl Charlotte Brontë a bit (in the nicest way possible, and she was probably right).

But meh. She's still a genius. ( )
1 vote TurnThePaige | Jan 14, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Woolf, Virginiaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beeke, AnthonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bell, VanessaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gubar, SusanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simonsuuri, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waals-Nachenius, C.E. van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction -- what has that got to do with a room of one's own? I will try to explain.
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A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156787334, Paperback)

Surprisingly, this long essay about society and art and sexism is one of Woolf's most accessible works. Woolf, a major modernist writer and critic, takes us on an erudite yet conversational--and completely entertaining--walk around the history of women in writing, smoothly comparing the architecture of sentences by the likes of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, all the while lampooning the chauvinistic state of university education in the England of her day. When she concluded that to achieve their full greatness as writers women will need a solid income and a privacy, Woolf pretty much invented modern feminist criticism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:29 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Why is it that men, and not women, have always had power, wealth, and fame? Woolf cites the two keys to freedom: fixed income and one's own room. Foreword by Mary Gordon.

(summary from another edition)

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Editions: 0141183535, 0141018984, 0141184604, 0141044888, 0141198540

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