A Room of One's Own

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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1929 - Literary Criticism - 125 pages
42 Reviews
In one of the most entertaining and brilliant essays ever written on the importance of freedom for women, Woolf brings her literary imagination and defiant wit to bear on the relationship between gender, money, and the creation of works of genius. "Why did men drink wine and women water? Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor? What effect has poverty on fiction?" These are among the questions preoccupying Woolf as she embarks on an odyssey of preparation for her 1928 lecture to two British women's colleges. By "lunching here, dining there, drawing pictures in the British Museum, taking books from the shelf, looking out of the window," Woolf's character explores the process of literary creation and how it is affected by inferior education, lack of freedom, and a surfeit of discouragement. If Shakespeare had had a sister his equal in talent, she concludes, a legion of social and material obstacles would have prevented her from ever expressing it. Women must have money and rooms of their own, Woolf told her audience, if they are to write fiction. They must have the liberty "to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future and the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream." They must write books on every subject and fertilize every field of knowledge with their own understanding; and their writing must draw on both the masculine and feminine parts of themselves, for "it is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties." Then, when the next woman is born whose gift is a match for Shakespeare's, her talent will be allowed to bloom. -- Inside jacket flaps.

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User Review  - mirikayla - LibraryThing

I pretty much think of Virginia Woolf as something like the revered older sister of feminism, so I was surprised to be a little bugged by a few of her ideas. (Her attitude toward the suffrage movement ... Read full review

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User Review  - lucybrown - LibraryThing

I have read sections of this book, but I believe this it the first time that I have read it in its entirety. Here one sees the nascent women's studies movement ready to take flight, for better or for ... Read full review

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About the author (1929)

Virginia Woolf was born in London, the daughter of the prominent literary critic Leslie Stephen. She never received a formal university education; her early education was obtained at home through her parents and governesses. After death of her father in 1904, her family moved to Bloomsbury, where they formed the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of philosophers, writers and artists. As a writer, Woolf was a great experimenter. She scorned the traditional narrative form and turned to expressionism as a means of telling her story. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To The Lighthouse (1927), her two generally acknowledged masterpieces, are stream-of-consciousness novels in which most of the action and conflict occur beneath a surface of social decorum. Mrs. Dalloway, set in London shortly after the end of World War I, takes place on a summer's day of no particular significance, except that intense emotion, insanity, and death intrude.To the Lighthouse's long first and third sections, each of which concerns one day 10 years apart, of the same family's summer holidays, are separated and connected by a lyrical short section during which the war occurs, several members of the family die, and decay and corruption run rampant. Orlando (1928) is the chronological life story of a person who begins as an Elizabethan gentleman and ends as a lady of the twentieth century; Woolf's friend, Victoria Sackville-West, served as the principal model for the multiple personalities. (The book was made into a movie in 1993.) Flush (1933) is a dog's soliloquy that, by indirection, recounts the love story of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and their elopement and life in Florence. Her last short novel, Between the Acts (1941), was left without her final revision, but it is, nonetheless, a major representation of a society on the verge of collapse. Having had periods of depression throughout her life and fearing a final mental breakdown from which she might not recover, Woolf drowned herself in 1941. Her husband published part of her farewell letter to deny that she had taken her life because she could not face the terrible times of war. Leonard Woolf also edited A Writer's Diary (1953), which provides valuable insights into his wife's private thoughts and literary development. Equally informative are his own autobiographies, particularly Beginning Again and Downhill All the Way (1967), and The Letters of Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey . Virginia Woolf's Granite and Rainbow contains 27 essays on the art of fiction and biography. There are many sidelights on Woolf in the writings, letters, and biographies of other members of her Bloomsbury circle, such as Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes (see Vol. 3), and Lytton Strachey (see Vol. 3). Also casting much light on her life, thought, and creative processes are The Common Reader (1925), The Second Common Reader (1933), A Room of One's Own (1929), Three Guineas (1938), The Captain's Death Bed and Other Essays, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), and various collections of her autobiographical writings, diaries, and letters. In addition, in recent years there has been a veritable industry of writers dealing with Woolf and her work.