A Room of One's Own is a genuine glory, flowing like water... sometimes enervating like gentle rain, sustaining like a deep slow stream in summer, other times challenging like oceans wave crashing on the cliffs of patriarchy. Yet never is Woolf angry, she disparages gently, clearly marking her belief in the difference between women and men. Welcoming the prospect of more genders. And steady throughout is her firm focus on the responsibility of women to write, to write as women true to women. A timeless classic & encouragement
A great essay on feminism. It remains relevant to this day. I've read a lot of Woolf's work, but her essays are my favourite. if you enjoy this, you should definitely have a read of Three Guineas, where Woolf goes further into her argument made here.
My thirst for some cerebral literature was satiated after finishing this rather extended and comprehensive essay in the shape of a novel in just one sitting.
The construct is based on a set of lectures that Woolf actually delivered at Newham and Girton College. Her lectures centered around the lack of female writers in the literary world. Why are they absent from history books, (unless they are queens, mothers or mistresses)?
The book is a feminist text that utilizes fictional characters. In the work she brilliantly proposed a ‘What If’ situation – certainly a good way to begin any tome. ‘What If’ Shakespeare had a sister and she was equally gifted, but didn’t have his chance of schooling, learning grammar and logic. Woolf called her Judith (this being the name of one of his two daughters. Judith’s only experiences in life are beatings by her father and an arranged marriage to someone she didn’t love.
This simple premise led to dozens of questions that had to be answered. She cleverly used a story to make her point. This is typically the best way to deliver a message that sticks in the mind of the reader. She also developed multiple fictional narrators to create the universal female voice.
During the essay Woolf suggested the idea that ‘you would need money and a room of one’s own to become a writer’. It most definitely makes sense, I am sure most would agree.
Some may call her text elitist, because she was financially more than comfortable and supported in her creative ventures by her husband. But what has to be remembered is that she at least stopped to think about the issue and took the time to write and lecture on the subject. Her perspective on the topic may not always be to everyone’s liking, but it is a perspective all the same and, I believe, an astute one at that.
The author also discusses and defends the subject of lesbianism in a time when the scandal about Radclyffe Hall, the author of THE WELL OF LONELINESS, (a groundbreaking literary work with a lesbian theme) was still a fresh and touchy subject with the obscenity trials echoing in the literary world.
For me, the author’s rather capacious mind and melodious prose was all engrossing. Her application of stream of consciousness as a writing technique worked perfectly to deliver her message. The sentences were almost architectural; they flowed with visual beauty like the soft, undulating, arches and domes of a cathedral. It was like gazing through the looking-glass of her mind’s eye.
Countless women reviewing the book state that all women should read this. I believe that men should read it too. She offers a most interesting perspective that bears such sophisticated and cultured gravitas.
Given the subject, one would expect this to be a feminist diatribe, expressing her loathing towards men, but she does no such thing. It is a quiet, gentle text, full of wit, insights and cerebral cogitation. She discusses politics, wealth, power, poverty, truth, gender inequality and much more.
The focal point of the story is needing your own room, this being a fact that men could enjoy freely 100 years ago. Hard to believe, but it is a fact.
The author cleverly invented the character of Judith Shakespeare to show that a woman with equal talent as her brother William Shakespeare, could never have achieved the same success during that time. Even though talent was a vital element of his success, because women are treated so differently, a female Shakespeare would have been faced with a very different future to her brother. Judith eventually commits suicide in the fictional tale. Perhaps this is a reflection of the author’s own inner mental struggle with manic depression, with which she battled from an early age. She ended her life by drowning. She filled her pockets with stones and walked into the river Ouse. She was found a few weeks later. A huge loss to the literary world.
The author concludes her essay by suggesting that men and women need each other; we each have our strengths and our weaknesses; and that changes need to be implemented. A call to arms for all women.
This novel is a somewhat unorthodox, yet alluring investigation into the material and social conditions necessary for the creation of literature. It is also a tribute, a meditation, 'a belle-lettres' full of the author’s personal ethos. A worthy read. Sergiu Pobereznic (author)