Amy Reads Books

A Room of One's Own (Penguin Modern Classics)

A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf Virgina Woolf's A Room of One's Own is believed to be one of the most important feminist texts of the 20th century. Based on a speech she gave to the all-female Girton College at Cambridge University, the essay explores the idea of 'Women and Fiction' and how 'five hundred pounds a year and a room of one's own' enables women to be able to write. Despite having read two of Woolf's novels (Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse) I hadn't ever read the piece which she is probably most famous for. However, I picked it up after we looked at the 'looking-glass' idea in my Theology lessons as part of our Feminist Theology work. I'm really glad I did. Woolf makes many good points throughout her essay about the struggle of female writers throughout history. For instance, she shows how the very early female poets struggled with their feelings of anger at their state, which in a way made their writing less great than it could be. This was an idea she also applied to Charlotte Bronte, who she claims had more 'genius' for writing than Jane Austen; but Austen was more able to separate herself from the structures of patriachy, whilst Bronte allowed herself to be troubled by it. Woolf's most successful way of showing this was the story of Shakespeare's fictional sister, who is perhaps more talented than her brother but whose talents were squashed by the world around her which attempted to marry her, and when she refuses this she is forced out her home and travels to London. However, she cannot write or act without men laughing at her; and whilst a man does take 'pity' on her, Judith Shakespeare ultimately ends up pregnant and committing suicide in total obscurity. It was a really interesting story, and Woolf's final calls to the readers/listeners to work to bring her to life through their own writings due to her belief that all writings are in somewhere inheriting the work of the women before them is really interesting. Perhaps the only, slight, flaw in Woolf's writing is that despite this being an essay or speech it is still written in very much the style of her novels; with long descriptions and sentences. Whilst this usually doesn't bother me so much, the fact that often one sentence would basically repeat half the sentence before it did slightly get on my nerves. Also, I would say that people who (like me) are expecting a 'quick read' as this copy is only 112 pages would be mistaken. I went into it thinking I might be able to finish it in a day-I was wrong, the prose is still very dense and you need to really concentrate on what Woolf is saying. However, I would definitely recommend reading this is you're in any way interested in the history of literature (there are names that sound really interesting that I wouldn't have heard of without this book) or in the history of feminism as Woolf is really not as radical as some people may think, at least in this writing.