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Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of a Room of One's Own

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A Room of One's Won was the only book Virginia Woolf published in her lifetime for which no substantial manuscript had yet been discovered. Only twenty or so pages of what seem at first to be notes and fragments were to be found in the Monks House Papers now at the University of Sussex. The 1928 talks at the two Cambridge women's colleges out of which the book grew have A Room of One's Won was the only book Virginia Woolf published in her lifetime for which no substantial manuscript had yet been discovered. Only twenty or so pages of what seem at first to be notes and fragments were to be found in the Monks House Papers now at the University of Sussex. The 1928 talks at the two Cambridge women's colleges out of which the book grew have not survived.


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A Room of One's Won was the only book Virginia Woolf published in her lifetime for which no substantial manuscript had yet been discovered. Only twenty or so pages of what seem at first to be notes and fragments were to be found in the Monks House Papers now at the University of Sussex. The 1928 talks at the two Cambridge women's colleges out of which the book grew have A Room of One's Won was the only book Virginia Woolf published in her lifetime for which no substantial manuscript had yet been discovered. Only twenty or so pages of what seem at first to be notes and fragments were to be found in the Monks House Papers now at the University of Sussex. The 1928 talks at the two Cambridge women's colleges out of which the book grew have not survived.

30 review for Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of a Room of One's Own

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Every woman should read this. Yes, everyone who told me that, you were absolutely right. It is a little book, but it's quite likely to revitalize you. How many 113 page books and/or hour long lectures (the original format of this text) can say that? This is Woolf's Damn The Man book. It is of course done in an overtly polite British way... until she brings up her fountain pen and stabs them right between the eyes. She manages to make this a work of Romantic sensibility, and yet modern, piercing, Every woman should read this. Yes, everyone who told me that, you were absolutely right. It is a little book, but it's quite likely to revitalize you. How many 113 page books and/or hour long lectures (the original format of this text) can say that? This is Woolf's Damn The Man book. It is of course done in an overtly polite British way... until she brings up her fountain pen and stabs them right between the eyes. She manages to make this a work of Romantic sensibility, and yet modern, piercing, and vital. Woolf was asked to give a speech on "Women and fiction." She ended up with an entire philosophy on the creative spirit, though with special attention to that of women, of course. Her thesis is simply that women must have a fixed income (500 pounds a year in her time) and a room of her own with a lock on the door. It is only with independence and solitude that women will finally be free to create, after centuries of being forced to do as men please because they support them, and to work in the middle of a drawing room with a thousand practical interruptions, ten children to see to, and a sheet of blotting paper to cover the shame of wasting her time with "scribbles," (as Jane Austen did whenever someone outside the family came into the room) when there was a house to keep and a family to raise. She also shows the creative powers of women tortured and hidden through the allegory of Shakespeare's sister, who never had a chance to express her genius and killed herself after being defeated at every turn. Woolf takes her readers through the history of women writers, and makes sure that the reader cannot fail to see how brief it is and how limited, and why. Woolf states that all modern women should acknowledge their ancestors who fought for five minutes and a few pieces of paper to jot down lines of Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, or Pride and Prejudice. She makes sure that women know that they can reject the framework and the form down to the very sentences that are given to them by men to find their own voice. However, this voice should be, ultimately, sexless. In her view, one should be "man-womanly," or "woman-manly," to write enduring classics. She doesn't let women down easy, either. The end of the book points out all the advantages young women have(/had, 1929) and yet they still don't run countries, wars, or companies, and there's no excuse for that. It's an exhortation to not squander everything the women's movement fought for. I probably could have said this in a much shorter way: "Damn the patriarchy, find your own way and your own voice in life, seize the day, just DO something. How dare you waste the opportunities that so many others would have died to have." Inspiring words on any topic, I think. I think I'll keep this by my bedside to reach for when I feel discouraged or lazy or bitter about my future or my current situation in life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I can't believe I only read this book now. I would have needed it when I was 18, and 25, and last year and yesterday! The opening sentence caught me, right away: "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 don't even need to read Virginia Woolf's justification before I exclaim: "EVERYTHING, it has EVERYTHING to do with a room of one's own!" Whoever loves art, literature, and the act of writing, drawing or reading knows how I can't believe I only read this book now. I would have needed it when I was 18, and 25, and last year and yesterday! The opening sentence caught me, right away: "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 don't even need to read Virginia Woolf's justification before I exclaim: "EVERYTHING, it has EVERYTHING to do with a room of one's own!" Whoever loves art, literature, and the act of writing, drawing or reading knows how hard it is to keep the deep concentration necessary to achieve something of relative creative value. If you are constantly in company, then "casual interruptions", as Woolf calls them, will eventually make you give up and do something less challenging. Quiet space and time are fundamentally important, and women have been denied both over the course of history. As Woolf is a storyteller, even when she writes nonfiction, she demonstrates the creative process by evoking an afternoon on the riverbank, where she catches a thought just like a fish. A man interrupts, and the thought disappears, never to be found again. She goes on to reflect on the development of literature, and the fact that men historically have produced more works of art than women. Her question throughout the essay is: "Why is that?" As she cannot accept the idea that men are physically and mentally stronger (an explanation she hears and finds in reference literature), there must be a different reason, which she sets out to discover. She analyses the traditional gender roles and points out that men have three advantages: money, space, and education. To prove her point, she invents a brilliant sister of Shakespeare's, and assumes that she is equally talented. Woolf creates a storyline for her quest to conquer the literary world of the 16th century just like Shakespeare did in real life, and shows the various stages at which her access to the world are blocked. It is a harsh story, and it illustrates the difference between men's and women's opportunities perfectly. So far so good. Her lovely prose and beautiful literary examples make the argument for equality read like a novel, but I am always a bit cautious when I read political essays. There is so much attached to the question of feminism today that I dare not guess what Virginia Woolf's final suggestion or solution will be. I am almost nervous, as I fear I might stop loving the book when I read the conclusion. But this is where she really surprises me, and where I feel that she has written the book for me specifically. She does not end by delivering a hate speech towards men, and by proclaiming that women should take over their roles and become more like them. She rather insists that women should be given the same freedom to develop their OWN strengths: "It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities?" This is something very close to my heart, and a reason why I struggle with the political feminism of my home country. I have never been able to accept that I must strive to be the SAME as a man, rather than to have the same basic opportunities to develop in my own way. I have never understood why we try to impose masculine ideals on women instead of creating an environment of respect for feminine strengths - and I remember being extremely angry at a pre-school for banning the doll's house from the playroom so that girls wouldn't adopt typical "girly" behaviour. I found that insulting. What about cars, then? Considered boy's toys, and therefore acceptable? The same goes for the pinkophobia that some parents develop to protect their girls from looking too feminine. It is a colour, just like blue? And why is it politically loaded, if blue is not? Are they not making the point that the things girls choose are less valuable? I am in deep waters now, I realise, so I will return to why Virginia Woolf is such a role model and heroine for me. She sees human beings in their multifaceted identities, and claims, rightly in my opinion, that any creative person must be able to draw from male AND female parts of the mind: "Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace." This is by far the best essay on gender equality I have read, as it respects and values the individual wishes and needs of women (and men) and does not try to create (by force) a uniform sameness. At the same time, it is a declaration of love to literature and creativity. It is entertaining, funny and informative. It has it all! I want more Virginia Woolf! Favourite quote: "For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately." PS: My 16-year-old son just finished reading this book and loved it, and it feels like it continues and makes my reading experience even more pleasurable!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    There are so many books that one ‘just knows’ what they are going to be about. I have always ‘known’ about this book and ‘knew’ what it would be about. Feminist rant, right? Oh, these people do so preach to the choir, don’t they? Why do they hate men so much? In the end they are no different to the male chauvinists they are attacking. Why can’t they just be more even handed? That none of this is the case, of course, does not matter at all, because reiterating received wisdom seems to be all that There are so many books that one ‘just knows’ what they are going to be about. I have always ‘known’ about this book and ‘knew’ what it would be about. Feminist rant, right? Oh, these people do so preach to the choir, don’t they? Why do they hate men so much? In the end they are no different to the male chauvinists they are attacking. Why can’t they just be more even handed? That none of this is the case, of course, does not matter at all, because reiterating received wisdom seems to be all that is necessary today – read 99% of the critiques of The God Delusion and the horrifying thing you will find is either a mindless acceptance or a mindless rejection of Dawkins. It is enough to fill me with near complete despair. The blurb on the back of the Penguin edition of this book says that this is “one of the greatest feminist polemics of the century”. There is a quote too from Hermione Lee (apparently, Woolf’s greatest biographer) which reads, “fierce, energetic, humourous”. Look, I really loved this book and would recommend it whole-heartedly – but it is none of those things. A polemic is a strong verbal or written attack – to say this book is even an attack is really stretching the friendship. This is the most mild of books. Its central argument is that women need money of their own and a room of their own, with a lock on the door, if they want to write. How can one really be ‘fierce’ if that is all one is going to argue? She ends with a quote from a man who provides a list of the greatest poets of the last couple of hundred years (c.1900) of which Keats was the only one who was not either a university person or of independent means. So, I guess her recommendation is that if you want to write you need to be independently wealthy – something I haven’t quite achieved yet. But eminently sensible advice all the same. This book is based on a series of lectures she gave to women at Cambridge Uni on Women and Fiction and it is a delight that rather then make this a polemic she actually makes this a work of fiction – creating a series of Marys who go off into the world and be idol – as this is one of the criteria necessary for writing great fiction (no matter what you genitalia are up to) and part of the reason why being wealthy helps. She also says that the best fiction is not written by men or women, but by men or women who have lost a sense that they are writing as men or women. That writing that focuses too closely on explaining past hurts – however well justified – ends up being bad writing. That fiction, when it is done properly, has a truth of its own that ought to be authentic and followed by the writer despite any agenda of the writer. This is such a lovely idea – and much more interestingly about fiction than about women. And this is as it ought to be. Some of Woolf’s writing – I’ve also just finish reading To the Lighthouse – feels heavy now, some of her paragraphs go for three pages and that can make reading her feel a bit of a struggle – but she writes so beautifully and has the annoying habit of making sense that it is no wonder that so many people have become so annoyed with her. In the end I think it is only possible for people to say this is a fierce book or a polemic on the basis of their views, not Virginia’s. Her views on feminism expressed in the book today seem rather depressingly self-evident and expressed in a light and very careful way. But to a society that is not prepared to listen even the mildest expression of unpopular views will seem harsh, polemical and, well, just plain wrong. Not the book I suspected, infinitely better than that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Reading my first work by Virginia Woolf was just what the reading doctor ordered after my frustrating experience with Kawabata over this past weekend. In the last few days, I have been organizing my reading challenges for next year, and decided to get a jump start on women's history as well as a January group read in catching up on classics by reading Woolf. Although written ninety years ago, Woolf could be discussing the status of women authors today. Her work remains timely and was a pure joy Reading my first work by Virginia Woolf was just what the reading doctor ordered after my frustrating experience with Kawabata over this past weekend. In the last few days, I have been organizing my reading challenges for next year, and decided to get a jump start on women's history as well as a January group read in catching up on classics by reading Woolf. Although written ninety years ago, Woolf could be discussing the status of women authors today. Her work remains timely and was a pure joy to read. Mary Beton is roaming the Oxbridge University library in search of quality works written by women authors. This is the task put forth to her by her professors and she is determined to do good by her gender. Yet, as Woolf writing as Beton points out, this is no small task although she believes that Beton is up for the challenge. Until recently (in Woolf's time), women were denied access to universities as well as two necessities for writing: five hundred pounds a year in expenses and a room of one's own in which to write uninterruptedly. A woman's station in life was to take care of one's children and other housekeeping tasks. Only the rich were able to write as they had nannies to care for their children, and writing as a profession was not accessible to the average woman. The shots fired in 1914 changed the role of women in British society; however, as men went off to fight in the Great War, and women were expected to take on jobs outside of the home that were often only employed by men. The women's movement in Europe had begun, followed shortly after by women's suffrage in England in 1919. Writing ten years after these developments, Woolf points out that despite enjoying these gains in society, women still have a long way to go until they are to be considered on equal literary footing as men. Well versed in literary history, Woolf cites many examples in European literature to point out the path women have taken to get where they are in the early 20th century. She starts with an pointed anecdote: if Shakespeare had a sister. Woolf notes that in the 16th century long before the women's revolution, intelligent women would not have been encouraged in reading or writing in any shape or form. Perhaps, if this woman was intelligently inclined, she might have peeked at her brother's work. Yet, any other avenues would have been closed to her unless she possessed a rebellious streak and followed her famous brother to his Globe Theater and immersed herself in his work. With roles in plays closed off to her, she would have died a pauper in a common grave. Having no access to education, the women's space was in the home. This changed with Aphra Behn. Woolf goes on to point out that famous writers as the Brontes, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley have Aphra Behn to thank as she was the first British woman to write as a profession. Her work may not be as famous as that of her literary descendants but it paved the way so that they could write the now classic books including Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice that are still enjoyed by many today. Woolf takes it a step further, noting that other pioneers such as George Sand and George Eliot felt safer writing under men's pseudonyms. They did so because in the early 19th century, all but a few literary avenues were still closed to women. Even Jane Austen took twenty years to become published for the first time, and women writing when she did were told that if they wrote at all, it should be as poets rather than novelists. In a pointed barb toward the establishment, Woolf notes that had these women been men, they would have been as revered throughout Europe as Tolstoy, and their work rather than War and Peace would be considered the 19th century novel. Throughout the novella, Woolf's feminism is on display. She encourages women to have less children so that they are able to do work in addition to caring for their children and housework. She also points out that by achieving higher levels of education that women should be more than capable of writing great novels. She believes that in one hundred years after the publication of her essay that the amount of books written by men and women should be about equal, reflecting on their actual percentages of the population. While this may be true today ninety years later, women still have a way to go until their classic books are read as much as those of their male counterparts. At the beginning of 2017, I had set out to read 75% of all books by women authors. The percentages fell to around 50/50, what Woolf had encouraged in this novella. As noticed in my experience, woman and men write differently and about vastly different topics, so even if I read four books in a row by women authors, I find my personal pendulum swinging back toward the men. I believe as Woolf that 50/50 is a marker to strive for as this represents an accurate percentage of society. A Room of One's Own has given me intriguing food for thought as I plan my upcoming reading year and should offer poignant discussions in a genre that still at times struggles to find quality women authors. Suffice it to say, the frustrating feeling I had from this past weekend is gone. 5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on 24 October 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on 24 October 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled "Women and Fiction", which was published in Forum March 1929, and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is generally seen as a feminist text and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figurative space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by men. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سوم ماه مارس سال 2004 میلادی عنوان: اتاقی از آن خود؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: صفورا نوربخش؛ ویراستار: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1383، در 160 ص؛ شابک چاپ چهارم در سال 1388: 9789644482144؛ موضوع: نقد تاریخی زنان هنرمند از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20 م با ترجمه: معصومه مهرشادی؛ تهران، روزگارنو، 1391، در 176 ص، شابک: 9786006867335؛ مجموعه مقالات و سخنرانیهای وولف درباره نویسندگی زنان؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سوم مارس سال 2004 میلادی این کتاب در کلاس‌های آیین نگارش پایه‌ های تحصیلی دانشگاهی تدریس می‌شود؛ دفتر یادمان نویسنده نشان می‌دهد، که قصد داشته اند، نوشتن امواج را آغاز کنند، اما فکر اتاقی از آن خود رهایش نمی‌کند، و بر آن می‌شود، که آن را با سبکی نو، «نیمی محاوره، و نیمی گفتگوی درونی» بازنویسی کنند. ایشان کتاب را سه ماه پس از نگاشتن مقاله ی -زن و داستان- و در عرض یک ماه به پایان برده اند، چنانکه خودشان نوشته اند: «با چنان سرعتی می‌نوشتم، که وقتی قلم به دست می‌گرفتم، مثل بطری آبی بودم، که سر و ته شده باشد. با نهایت سرعتی که می‌توانستم، می‌نوشتم؛ بیش از حد سریع، چون حالا برای تصحیح آن نوشته‌ ها باید زحمت بکشم، اما این روش به آدم آزادی می‌دهد، و اجازه می‌دهد از فکری به فکر دیگر بپرد.». پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” This is a highly charged feminist essay loaded with powerful rhetoric and words that demand to be heard. Virginia Woolf doesn’t ask for a lot really. She just wants a room of one’s own. Sounds simple enough but this room has far reaching implications. The room is space, space to grow, learn and write. Creativity is the key. Far too often women didn’t get the opportunity “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” This is a highly charged feminist essay loaded with powerful rhetoric and words that demand to be heard. Virginia Woolf doesn’t ask for a lot really. She just wants a room of one’s own. Sounds simple enough but this room has far reaching implications. The room is space, space to grow, learn and write. Creativity is the key. Far too often women didn’t get the opportunity to express it and develop any form of art. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf recognises her own advantages, the key being a fine education allowing her to become successful and financially independent. She is a rarity, and she used this as a basis to attack the patriarchy and the stupid nuances that leave women in intellectual shackles. Granted, the twentieth century saw more women writers emerge than any other century, but there were still improvements to be made. Woolf led the charge. She wanted more for every woman. Sure, you could make the case that there had been many fine female writers of fiction before Woolf. The Brontes, Austen, Eliot and Gaskell stand out as the most prominent novelists, but the point is not every women is afforded the opportunities that allow her to become a writer. If she is not educated, and given room and space, then she will never know what she could be capable of. Woolf’s words are sharp and directly address the problems in realistic terms. She’s not an idealist, just a pragmatist who suggests things that should not need to be suggested. Intellectual freedom is not a right, it’s a necessity all should be able to attain. A compelling essay, still very relevant today!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Words fail me as I seek to express what I think of Virginia Woolf. Or to sum up in a few measly paragraphs, a book that may just have shattered into a million pieces all my illusions about the art of writing and reshaped my whole perspective. Have you ever imagined a disembodied voice whispering into your ears, the wisdom of the ages as you flipped through the pages of a book? how often have you conjured up the vision of the writer talking to you, teaching you, humoring you and coaxing you to Words fail me as I seek to express what I think of Virginia Woolf. Or to sum up in a few measly paragraphs, a book that may just have shattered into a million pieces all my illusions about the art of writing and reshaped my whole perspective. Have you ever imagined a disembodied voice whispering into your ears, the wisdom of the ages as you flipped through the pages of a book? how often have you conjured up the vision of the writer talking to you, teaching you, humoring you and coaxing you to open your mind to newer things as you read a book? Have you felt a book stop being just a book somewhere and instead appear as a beacon of enlightenment that shines down the light of knowledge upon your darkened, ignorant soul? This is how profoundly A Room of One's Own affected me. I will adopt this book as my writing Bible. I will read this every time I feel dejected, sad or terribly lost. And I will read this again and again, until I can ascertain that the message, the very spirit of this fine piece of writing has been assimilated into the core of my being. Okay now that I've gotten the stream of incoherent gushing out of the way, let me try and bestow on this review some semblance of real meaning. It will be irreverent of me to call A Room of One's Own a mere essay or something that grew out of a lecture given at Girton College, Cambridge. This is the essence of Virginia Woolf herself, captured at the peak of her glory, all within 111 pages. This is Woolf reaching out from within the confines of this book and handing out to you the precious fruits of years of her hard work - her thoughts, her research, her observations, her inferences, her views. So what if it is about the subject of women? and writing? Aren't women one half of the human race? The so-called better half at that. What is so wrong about getting to know about the history of their evolution as thinkers, as composers, as sentient beings with the power of expression but without the power to assert themselves? So you better read it. Yes you, the silently scoffing and judging member of the 'stronger' sex. Yes you too. Because it does not only talk about women writers but life itself and the art of writing. The blurb and the countless reviews famously identify this book as one of the greatest feminist polemics of the last century. I beg to differ. It will be unfair to tag it with the label of a polemic - a word with a highly negative connotation. Because Virginia Woolf's aim, instead, was to dispel all forms of negativity from the vocation of writing. Sure, she gives us the feminist side of things - but her voice is not full of seething rage or resentment but balanced, logical, sardonic and even humorous at times. This is Woolf's homage to the spirit of those unsung heroines of the distant past who may have written poems, songs and ballads but were forced to adopt anonymity simply because it was unacceptable for a woman to write. Those imaginative souls who may have wanted desperately to write but could not because society thrust gender specific roles of the mother and wife on them and did not even bother educating them. What if Shakespeare had an equally talented sister but who could never be another Shakespeare herself because she would have been mocked at had she expressed a desire to write plays or poetry? Woolf asks us to spare a moment and reflect on the sad fate of these martyrs, history has not bothered to record. "When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Brontë who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without singing them, was often a woman." She makes it clear to us that Jane Austen was a clever, clever writer because she never tried to adopt the style of a man's writing or his sentence construction. She created her own. And with a rather limited range of experiences in the real world at her command, she could neither have written about bloody wars nor about politics - spheres women still hadn't earned the right to enter. Instead she wrote what she saw and witnessed in the sitting chambers of the houses of the gentry. (This rekindles my interest in Jane Austen which had started to wane over the past few years.) She also repeatedly stresses on how a woman needs a room of her own and money to be able to write. A room of her own because she needs a breathing space where she could revel in the knowledge of her identity as a person, as a woman, as a thinker over her identity as a dutiful daughter or wife or mother. Although I disagree with her assertion of having money as a necessary criterion for aiming to become a writer, I think financial independence could have been a metaphor for empowerment of women or a reference to freedom from having to rely on someone else, especially a man, and to be able to decide the course of your own life. Woolf ends her essay by exhorting both men and women to take up their pens and write, laying emphasis on the necessity of stepping outside the limits of narrow gender identities and be the writer with an androgynous mind instead - the one capable of uniting the spirit of both the man and woman and letting it reflect in one's craft. And it is at this point, I felt truly thankful for her 500 pounds a year and a room of her own. Since that may have, after all, allowed this marvelous, deeply enlightening piece of writing to come into existence in the first place.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    First thing I'd like to say is I wish I could keep Virginia Woolf alive for all eternity so as to read her thoughts on other writers. My favourite parts of this book, reminding me of my love for The Common Reader, a handbook for how to write a creative review if ever there was one, were often when she discusses the female writers who came before her. Some fabulous insights on Austen (of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness) and Charlotte Bronte in First thing I'd like to say is I wish I could keep Virginia Woolf alive for all eternity so as to read her thoughts on other writers. My favourite parts of this book, reminding me of my love for The Common Reader, a handbook for how to write a creative review if ever there was one, were often when she discusses the female writers who came before her. Some fabulous insights on Austen (of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness) and Charlotte Bronte in particular. How I'd love to know what she makes of all her female successors. Of course the world is now full of women with a room of their own and as a result there are probably as many good female writers out there as men now. But then a doubt arises. If, as she has it, potential geniuses have been denied a voice by social injustices in the past, surely now our emancipated western world ought to be brimming with them? But wasn't Virginia herself the last female literary genius? And didn't the 19th century produce four female geniuses? I'm struggling to think of any contemporary female novelist (or male) who can indisputably match Eliot, Austen and the two Brontes for artistry or innovation. And we're still waiting for a female Shakespeare. Perhaps the central premise of Woolf's argument, when applied to creativity, is a bit flawed. Perhaps adversity is a much more inspiring impetus than leisure, encouragement or freedom. After all, there's little doubt Woolf's genius owed more to the deeply troubled nature of her mind than to having a room of her own in which to write. Then again, thank heavens she did have a room of her own in which to write. And thank heavens we all have a room of our own in which to write. This was originally written as a lecture for the young women at Girton College. Which is why her argument is focused on the patriarchal outlawing of artistic creativity in women and doesn't broach upon wider issues of male persecution of women. Personally, I've never attended a lecture that hasn't at times released my mind to go wandering and this was very much true for me here - even though it's perhaps one of the events in history I'd choose to attend given a fairystory choice of ten. There's a lot of beating around the bush. Frequently she did snap me back to attention with some glistening pearl of wisdom but for the most part I detected in this book, much more than in her novels, a hint of why a lot of people simply don't connect with Woolf. This I'd say is an inclination on her part to get carried away with her flights of whimsy. I think writing Orlando, pure (and mostly fabulous) whimsy, was her recognising this trait in herself and bringing it under better control. The outcome, three years later, was her masterpiece, The Waves. No doubt this was much more electrifying at its time. Especially perhaps it's passages on the essentially androgynous nature of the human mind. Nowadays, it belongs for me among her lesser books. An easy way to read most of the best bits is to scroll through the most popular quotes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would be unknown. We should still be scratching the outlines of deer on the remains of mutton bones and bartering flints for sheep skins or whatever simple ornament took our unsophisticated taste. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn ”Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would be unknown. We should still be scratching the outlines of deer on the remains of mutton bones and bartering flints for sheep skins or whatever simple ornament took our unsophisticated taste. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for it they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge.” To think of this long essay as feminist propaganda is to do this book and the author Virginia Woolf a disservice. Desmond MacCarthy of the Sunday Times labels the book as such, but he also says, ”yet it resembles an almond tree in blossom.” Certainly, the case can be made that MacCarthy feels a niggling of perception that the book is more than just propaganda, quite possibly something beautiful. Vincent Van Gogh certainly found blossoming almond trees to be beautiful, given the number of times he painted them. Woolf liked the review and even pasted it in her scrapbook. The expectation I had in reading this book, as I do with every Woolf book I decide to read, is that she will change my perspective or, at the very least, slightly alter my life view about something. We can all agree a pail is a pail, but if it is turned upside down, is it still a pail or does it become something else? Woolf turns ideas sideways, or tosses them up in the air so they spin around and around, or sometimes moves the reader from one vantage point to another. See this thought from down here and now from up there. It will look different. Understanding comes from expanding the mind, and presenting tired arguments with fresh insight is important. If we return to the opening quote that began this “review,” we can read that as an act of oppression of women being relegated to this role, or we can read it as a grand sacrifice for the greater good. If women had never been subservient to men, then civilisation as we know it would not exist. If women were as strong physically as men and did not need a man’s protection, how different would things be? Has nature intentionally hampered women to create the proper dynamic for the human species to evolve into civilised creatures? Regardless of any type of grand design, we can say now that most of us do live in a civilized world and that the days of women needing to be looking-glasses is over. I believe that women are quite capable of molding the world to fit their needs without waiting for a man to do it for them. Suffragettes worked for many decades to achieve the vote. In Britain, they had that right given to them in 1918 and in the United States in 1920. Virginia Woolf emphatically says that getting the right to vote was secondary to her receiving an inheritance of 500 pounds a year from her aunt. The right to vote did not give her power over her own life, but having her own money did. She could afford a room of her own, and she could afford to be a serious writer. Of course, financial independence is important, but I’d never really thought about it carrying more weight than having the right to vote. We may have seen this play out in the 2016 election when 47% of white women voted for Trump and 45% voted for Clinton. One would think that Clinton would offer these women more future advantages, but when thinking about at least the immediate future, these women who supported Trump must have felt that he offered more opportunity for a robust economy. Discounting the one issue voters who have routinely voted against their best interests for decades in the hopes of overturning Roe vs. Wade, any reasonable projection would have expected more white women to vote for Clinton. I’ve believed for a long time that women could easily control the politics of this country as they did in the 2018 midterms. The interesting thing will be what will be the guiding principle for voting in 2020? If economics is the most important issue for a woman, not only for herself but for the men in her family, there is a chance that the split of the vote could be similar to 2016. This feels like a digression, but at the same time, maybe Woolf from 1929 has given me insight into what is still of most concern to women in the 21st century...striving towards economic freedom. Woolf introduces me to Aphra Behn, a playwright from the 17th century who became the first woman to make an independent living with her pen. From what I’ve briefly gathered, it seems she was a woman who lived as a man would, in pursuit of her pleasures. Woolf refers to her as “shady and amorous.” Behn was a true trailblazer; there is ever only one first, but once there is a first, we hope for a second and a third and a hundred more. The importance of Aphra’s contribution to Woolf’s own success was not lost on her. ”All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” She did make it into Westminster, but was not allowed to be buried in the Poet’s corner where she belonged. Woolf talks about the economics of being a writer, about really needing to be born to a certain class to even receive an education that would allow the blossoms of creativity to be born. She talks about the androgynous mind and the writers who possessed it, such as Coleridge and Shakespeare. ”When one takes a sentence of Coleridge into the mind, it explodes and gives birth to all kinds of other ideas, and that is the only sort of writing of which one can say that it has the secret of perpetual life.” Did I just hear the rattle of grinning bones from Coleridge’s grave? Looking through my notes, there are so many more things that I could discuss about this book. It sounds like a heavy book, but it is made weightless by the stream of consciousness style Woolf uses. You really feel as if you are walking with her through the gardens of Fernham as she works to compose her thoughts on what women really want, what women really need, and how best to achieve happiness. She knows the importance, of course, of being oneself, and I think she has also made it very clear how difficult it is, but also how important it is for women to achieve...a room of their own. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  10. 4 out of 5

    Macy_Novels at Night

    I would give 6 stars if I could. What a wonderful reminder as a woman, what we are truly capable of! I believe that Virginia is looked at by some as a feminist that hates men and that is simply not true. She just wants a woman to be able to have the ability to live life to her fullest potential. I am grateful for a woman like Virginia, for bringing these issues to life and pushing women to be their very best. I agree with her statements that women need certain things to be able to write and I would give 6 stars if I could. What a wonderful reminder as a woman, what we are truly capable of! I believe that Virginia is looked at by some as a feminist that hates men and that is simply not true. She just wants a woman to be able to have the ability to live life to her fullest potential. I am grateful for a woman like Virginia, for bringing these issues to life and pushing women to be their very best. I agree with her statements that women need certain things to be able to write and follow their dreams. That is not feminism, but fact. This book displays how wonderful a writer Virginia was, and also displays her passion that women follow their dreams no matter what the cost. She is an inspiration, and I look forward to reading more of her work!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    A World Of Her Own “Here then I was (call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please – it is not a matter of importance) sitting on the banks of a river a week or two ago in fine October weather, lost in thought.” And they all do appear, as fictional novelists. Avatars of the Gauri. Of course, I didn’t know they were so, and I didn't want to find out. I knew Woolf was perfectly capable of inventing novelists and novels inside this small thought-world she was spinning. A World Of Her Own “Here then I was (call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please – it is not a matter of importance) sitting on the banks of a river a week or two ago in fine October weather, lost in thought.” And they all do appear, as fictional novelists. Avatars of the Gauri. Of course, I didn’t know they were so, and I didn't want to find out. I knew Woolf was perfectly capable of inventing novelists and novels inside this small thought-world she was spinning. What is their purpose in this fictional essay? They serve as demonstrations. Of writers who could have been, if only certain conditions had been met. Of the many literary geniuses lost to humankind because it was so late in letting the women into literature. And what would have allowed this? Woolf examines the minimum material preconditions that would be required before genuinely self-representative literature can emerge from among the women. According to her this requires enough money, leisure and solitude -- and they should be earned (?) and should come with no attachments. Only then can women start producing literature of their own that is not defined by their relations to men. Woolf considers Austen as the best example of such a completely free feminine literature (for contrast, consider Shakespeare as a genuinely human representation of self) i.e. a true representation of the female self, untainted by anger towards the male attitudes, frustration arising from limited opportunities, fear of social repercussions, wariness of what is expected of a women, and so on. After much reflection and survey of literature and its origins, etc., Woolf comes back to the original point that material conditions are all important. This is something we can agree to. And we can share in the sense of loss that pervades this book. But we need not stop there… Extending The Argument: The Productions of Exclusion Woolf’s exploration is about women’s literature, but I am sure we can extend the scope of the essay a bit beyond that. We should be able to go so far as to tell that the material conditions of any group more or less determines its literary output: 1. A leisurely class with plenty of time and education can create and consume subtle and philosophical literature and art. 2. A working class which is barely literate, does not have time for leisurely study and starved for quick entertainment will produce and consume crasser types of pop-art, barely going beyond the most cliched levels such as crude comics and perhaps the movies. 3. In between, might be the service-economy middle classes who have a bit of education -- required to appreciate moderate doses of art, and can afford the time and energy for producing and consuming genre fiction, YA, etc. So each class develops its tastes and consumption habits based on its unique material conditions… That is quite Marxist of us, isn’t it? Any group denied this material basis is denied of literature too, as postulated by Woolf for the feminine in her essay. And, as we have seen, each group is denied literature and art to the extent that it is denied material comforts and leisure. Thus we can extend Woolf’s speculative pathos and be sad about how many varieties of literary perspectives are lost to us even today due to such exclusion… As I said, in Woolf’s analysis it is the women who are the victim to this unfair exclusion. But today, perhaps, in many countries women are not so materially backward anymore. That does not, of course, make Woolf’s essay outdated, since it is only a way of looking at literature — both in its conditions for creation as well as consumption. In fact, I would now like not only extend Woolf’s propositions, but invert them a bit — to propose that we can even apply the conditions of material repression to the men of today. Women are freer to pursue non-material careers today — the stigma has been removed and the requisite (500 pounds?) material conditions are easier to come by. Whereas men find it harder. For instance, consider how much easier it is for a woman to go into a career in humanities. For a man to do the same would be much more difficult (note that this reviewer speaks only from the limited perspective of his own social experience of the educational aspirations prevalent in a third world country). Why ? Because societal norms expects man to be the provider — hence he should not be seen going into careers which are known to be of questionable monetary value, with little or no employment prospects. This is, perhaps, especially true in a patriarchal society like what we still have in India, and probably not as much applicable in the west — I do not really know. Hopefully a few comments from varying cultural milieus will help us pin this down. All this shouldn’t be taken to be only about production of literature — production is always in a tangled feed-back loop with consumption as far as arts are concerned. And the same is true for consumption too, i.e., for general reading. It is the women who seems to predominate reading in India. And as an experiment, if you would take one look at the ‘top reviewers’ listings in India, you will see that it is dominated by women too. Men are not supposed to “waste their time” reading and talking about books. They have manly tasks to attend to, like selling soaps and making financial instruments. And in keeping with this, of all my friends, the ones who are trained in humanities, especially literature, philosophy, etc., predominantly tend to be women. And those men who genuinely have an interest in literature and art tend to be in a process of self-education (including me) — stumbling and searching for a sure path, with no formal training or critical education. Hence it is much harder for those men to then be able to compete with the trained women (whether in creation of literary products or of literary markets, through their reading preferences) — with more time on her hands and a room of her own too, now. It might be that the cultural world is being remade in the image of Eve, or Gauri, and perhaps it is a good thing too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    May be if ‘i’ were androgynous, had five hundred a year and a good lock on my own room, ‘i’ would be able to write a truly fabulous review of this already well reviewed book. It would require imagining the room of reviews completely empty and with no tradition for me to draw upon. Or may be not, even with all those conditions present, 'i' still would not be able to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” exposes Woolf and her multiple fictional narrators, Mary Beton, Mary Seton and Mary Carmichael, embodying the universal voices of female writers that once were and the ones that never came to be, while relentlessly beguiling the reader, sinuously spiralling him down with evocative prose, genial dexterity with words and an unapologetic tone dripping with irony, righteousness and lyricism. Sitting on the riverside in "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” exposes Woolf and her multiple fictional narrators, Mary Beton, Mary Seton and Mary Carmichael, embodying the universal voices of female writers that once were and the ones that never came to be, while relentlessly beguiling the reader, sinuously spiralling him down with evocative prose, genial dexterity with words and an unapologetic tone dripping with irony, righteousness and lyricism. Sitting on the riverside in front of locked gates of universities and libraries, Woolf observes the reflections of weeping willows and uncrossable bridges flowing in streams of blurred ideas and slippery thoughts while she traces back the river of history and gauges the impact of the patriarchal heritage on women’s intellectual independence and their ability to create works of art. Woolf wonders how much greater the works of Jane Austen or The Brontë Sisters might have been if they had owned a room of their own, a desk where to write in privacy or had they been granted with unleashed freedom to devote to the creative process. Woolf wonders how prolific female writers might have turned out to be hadn’t they been expected to behave as magnifying mirrors of their masculine companions. "Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” (p.31) And isn’t that precisely what Mrs. Ramsay or Mrs. Dalloway did? Initially researched for lectures presented to the Arts Society at Newnham and Girton College in 1928, A Room of One's Own is more than just a feminist essay about the influence of sexual discrimination in the production of literary fiction, which is evident in the lack of published works by female authors since the beginning of times. What in my opinion makes this text a pulsating masterpiece, a hymn to the art of writing and a tribute to the passion for reading, is Woolf’s quest to find the binding essence that unites the writer’s source of inspiration, his integrity and his power of vision with the catharsis that occurs in the inner being of the reader when an unbreakable and almost miraculous bond is created between them, arising above gender, prejudice or the burden of history. Only words are left. Words as bearers of truth that carry the ethos of human beings, whose sexual quality is of no consequence as long as their voices sound true to themselves. Words as incandescent torches that illuminate the most hidden cavities of the reader’s soul, impregnating all its profundities and shallows with unimpeded brightness, soaking it with glowing clarity. Words as cords of communion between reader and writer, uniting fiction and reality. "But this is what I have always felt and known and desired! And one boils over with excitement, and shutting the book even with a kind of reverence as if it were something very precious, a stand-by to return to as long as one lives, one puts it back on the shelf.” (p.63) But for the written word to achieve that unbreakable blending of the souls, the male and female voices need to sing together, need to spiritually cooperate, need to fuse and to nurture each other to compose the complete symphony in the orchestra of the writer’s mind and achieve the adequate balance of androgyny which will sprout in prodigious writing that contains the secret of perpetual life, defying the passage of time and the erosion of bigotry. "It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace.” (p.89) Woolf’s appears at the peak of her geniality merging her impressionist techniques of interior multiple monologues and stream of consciousness to deliver a double-edged essay, pungent with latent criticism and dry witted satire but also honeyed with delicious metaphors and vivid imagery. A Room of one’s own has been mostly recognized for its undeniable feminist tone and for Woolf’s poignant belief that women need economic independence to develop their creativity. She defends her plight based on irrefutable proofs provided by a literary map of female writers that she unfalteringly outlines, with uncanny taste and virtuous skill, throughout history. ”Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time.” (p.93) But, in my opinion, what made a piece of art of this essay is Woolf’s use of unmatchable poetic and fluid quality of language, which flows following the most intricate stretches of the history of literature, to portray the sacred act of reading as a way of understanding reality through fiction, as the conduit to inner fulfillment, as a catharsis of the senses, as a magical brewery which distillates life from its very essence, as the path to relate not only to the world of men or women, but to a world bared of its superficialities where only words carry the elixir of true meaning.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    The only thing better than reading Virginia Woolf is having her work performed by Juliet Stevenson. I listened to this on audio, performed by the talented Juliet, and I was so impressed that I essentially listened to the book twice. In short, I lovedloveloved this essay by Woolf on women and fiction. When Woolf was asked to talk about women and fiction, she chose to focus on the poverty and subjugation of women in a patriarchy. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write The only thing better than reading Virginia Woolf is having her work performed by Juliet Stevenson. I listened to this on audio, performed by the talented Juliet, and I was so impressed that I essentially listened to the book twice. In short, I lovedloveloved this essay by Woolf on women and fiction. When Woolf was asked to talk about women and fiction, she chose to focus on the poverty and subjugation of women in a patriarchy. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." What was astounding to me about reading this book, which was first published in 1929, is how relevant it still is today. I've heard female colleagues complain about not having time to write because of family and childhood obligations. This problem is only "new" in the sense that at least women have the opportunity to be educated -- it used to be they weren't even taught how to read and write. One of my favorite stories in this book is about Shakespeare's sister. As Woolf imagines it, the sister is believed to have been as talented as William, but she has no opportunities for education or expression. Instead, she is urged to marry young so she won't be a burden to her family. "Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh." Truly, there are so many remarkable passages in this book that I could retype the entire essay. I highly recommend this work to everyone. Favorite Quotes "The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself." "So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say." "...who shall measure the heat and violence of a poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?" "Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind." "Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    A brilliant book! I'm overwhelmed and find hard to compose my thoughts. But I must let them out here. The book or rather the essay contains Ms. Woolf's famous quote "a woman must have money and room of her own if she is to write fiction". Throughout the essay she emphasizes her point drawing many examples of women writers in comparison to their counterparts. When I dig deep into her meaning of the above quotation, I found that Ms. Woolf does not mean only about having money and privacy to write. A brilliant book! I'm overwhelmed and find hard to compose my thoughts. But I must let them out here. The book or rather the essay contains Ms. Woolf's famous quote "a woman must have money and room of her own if she is to write fiction". Throughout the essay she emphasizes her point drawing many examples of women writers in comparison to their counterparts. When I dig deep into her meaning of the above quotation, I found that Ms. Woolf does not mean only about having money and privacy to write. Although monetary independence is stressed, there are more subtle and pressing issues she has addressed under the guise of that quotation. It was also pleasant surprise to read her view on the psychology of male and female authors. "....in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man's brain man predominates over the woman, and in the woman's brain woman predominates the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her." This opened my eyes through a new window. What Ms. Woolf tries to emphasize here is that every human has two sides irrespective of the accepted sex. In a man, there lives a woman to a degree, and in a woman there lives a man to a degree. But when they combine emotionally, a brilliant product sees the light of the day. Although Ms. Woolf has spoken entirely in relation to writing, I could not stop but wonder how truly applicable this principle is to every aspect of human life. This short book was both informative and educative for women in all capacity, especially women writers but also for men. This is no feminine text. The use of such narrow description belittles this well researched masterpiece. I, as both a woman and writer, was left utterly shaken. My perspective with regard to fiction, authors and writing will never again be the same. I also figured out certain elements I lack as a writer to which I should give deep thought and careful attention. I have no more words to say except to express my heartfelt gratitude to Ms. Woolf for this brilliant and genius piece of work which would certainly and subtly change me both as a woman and a writer. Even more amazed the second time around. It is really a brilliant piece of work by Virginia Woolf. And it is a book that one will never tire of reading; I certainly will not. It is also a book that everyone must read. There is so much one can learn about fiction, writing, authors and about life, men and women in general. In this third read I pondered more on Virginia's contemplation on what would have happened if Shakespeare had a sister with equal genius. Virginia is absolutely sure that in 17th century if a woman of equal genius of Shakespeare had attempted to do what he did, either she must have been ruined or become a castaway. Many centuries have passed from that time to which she alludes. But looking at the modern society, I wonder whether we have come much far from that position. Of course more and more women produce fiction, write plays, poetry and compose music; so in that sense women of our time come far from their sisters of the 17th century. But as a whole, and comparatively, have women been able to conquer all these areas as equally as men? Haven't they still being weighed down by either domestic responsibility? If not haven't they still being weighed down by prejudice? Virginia's observations, made in the early 20th century, still ring true for a greater extent.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    It's is 7:45 and Im already waiting dressed as best as I can with my dark suit and white/blue collar shirt outside the office for a meeting I've been expecting over a month. A meeting that perhaps will lead me get closer to accomplish a goal I've been working nonstop for years, just waiting for an opportunity to be given. After fifteen minutes, the secretary arrives and nicely welcomes me. She tells me that the meeting was arranged to be held at 2:00p.m. I don't show her the email and the alarm It's is 7:45 and Im already waiting dressed as best as I can with my dark suit and white/blue collar shirt outside the office for a meeting I've been expecting over a month. A meeting that perhaps will lead me get closer to accomplish a goal I've been working nonstop for years, just waiting for an opportunity to be given. After fifteen minutes, the secretary arrives and nicely welcomes me. She tells me that the meeting was arranged to be held at 2:00p.m. I don't show her the email and the alarm alert she send me to remind me the 8:00a.m. scheduled meeting, but instead I just smile and say I'll come back at the time planned and excuse myself. The rain continues and I remember I left my book in the car. I always carry a book with me, like a good bibliophile but thought it was completely inappropriate to bring a book titled "The Age of Atheists" to a meeting that might be a life changer. Surprisingly yes, we are still living in era where prejudice against your beliefs/ideals or lack of might affect your final outcome or give a wrong impression of the real human you are, we all are. So I decide to finish that one later at home. Anyways, I decide to stop at a close coffee place that has a nice short stack of books and I find Virginia's Woolf "A room of one's own". Alright! I think. I get my self a cup of black fresh coffee and make Woolf my companion on this wait. To my surprise, instead of finding an endless waititing time full of anxiety and a repetitive practice on my head of the speech and words I've prepared to say, I get lost and travel back in time to find a friend in Virginia Woolf who lifted my spirits and encouraged me through the powerful and beautiful use of words in her book. On this reading, the author defends that a woman in order to be able to sit down and write, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction", she requires her space and a stable economic status, free of distractors and stressful situations in order to accomplish that goal. She also gives examples of women writers back in time to support her argument (Jane Austen, George Elliot among others).Today we stand in a different era, where women are allowed not only to write but study/work and be a mother/wife at the same time, where she doesn't really need a man who doesn't even love only in order to support her economically but more a life companion to share her goals and failures and who to love by choice. “Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.” Our dreams today are not to have "a white wedding" anymore but to be successful in our careers as writers, doctors, lawyers, etc. at the same time we love and raise a family. Perhaps we don't need strictly "A room of one's own" anymore to keep conquering our goals not only in writing (unfortunately we might need the money still on this structured economy in which you are according to what you got and ironically necessary for education in order to work), but women continue succeeding in different fields, learning to be a "multitask human" through organization. Besides competitiveness get tougher each year, so we must learn to adapt instead of waiting for a perfect environment to settle around us ideally like the authors implies. Women don't need to hide their work anymore behind a male pseudonym and are more free to express an opinion and take the decisions that will lead her future. Maybe this essay was intended for writers only, but I could hear the feminist voice in Virginia Woolf reaching out to us and inspiring us. Yes Virginia, I will remember "Shakespeare's sister" Judith, and will give her the opportunity she perhaps lacked due to the conditions of her time. I will let her live in me and inspire me to keep working on those goals I still need to accomplish. I apologize my friends if you dont find a well and deep thought review of this book but a 2cent moment of inspiration. I just felt like sharing my morning with Virginia Woolf. This is why I love to read, it is through the brilliant minds of these authors of our past and present that we find the encouragement, the wisdom, the words we need to keep on going as well as an invitation to make a reflection of who we are and where are we standing today and what still needs to be done, individually, as a genre or as a society. Today I found freedom of my mind and confidence in myself through "A room of one's own", an essay published back in 1929. Now excuse me because I have an important meeting to attend.... "Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Once, I loved Virginia Woolf. She gets two stars here because of that former devotion, and because of the quality of her prose. But this is a toxic book. Be very clear what Woolf means: to be a writer, one needs to be isolated from life. Art is for the elite of the bourgeois. It is not for your housekeeper. It is not for the janitor at the school where you learned to appreciate the subtleties of verse. It is not for the chef who provides you the lush meals you and your female colleagues mull Once, I loved Virginia Woolf. She gets two stars here because of that former devotion, and because of the quality of her prose. But this is a toxic book. Be very clear what Woolf means: to be a writer, one needs to be isolated from life. Art is for the elite of the bourgeois. It is not for your housekeeper. It is not for the janitor at the school where you learned to appreciate the subtleties of verse. It is not for the chef who provides you the lush meals you and your female colleagues mull over. Thank the heavens you can finally afford the luxuries of your male peers! Yes, you have a room of your own, gratefully living off an inheritance you didn't earn with your own hands. Yes, you can finally write because you don't have to cook dinner. But someone else is doing so, and Woolf is quite, quite clear that feminism means liberation for some women. Not for all. Here is the most divisive form of identity politics. Here is an egregious example of sneering ivory tower intellectualism. I understand now why her books left me depressed - her philosophy, however prettily it dresses itself up, is vanity. It asks nothing of us, but it does demand a whole lot from the universe in order to preen and gaze at itself. Woolf lost me for good with her astounding disdain for the plight of anyone outside her narrow demographic. Women should have space and time of their own - all women. All men. Regardless of class. And if Woolf could only write literature with an army of servants to abuse at her every whim, then I'm frankly certain I have nothing of value to learn from her. Of course she was terrible to her servants. In a room of one's own, there is no place for empathy with those carrying the weight outside.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    I hadn't really made up my mind about how I feel about Virginia Woolf, until now, that is. This book definitely showed her genius and I loved it. I enjoyed reading about the history of women writers including one of my favourites, George Eliot, and how they have been suppressed systematically by patriarchy. I filed this book under "feminism" but in no way does it ridicule men or say women are better than men, it simply states that women have not been given adequate chances in literature in the I hadn't really made up my mind about how I feel about Virginia Woolf, until now, that is. This book definitely showed her genius and I loved it. I enjoyed reading about the history of women writers including one of my favourites, George Eliot, and how they have been suppressed systematically by patriarchy. I filed this book under "feminism" but in no way does it ridicule men or say women are better than men, it simply states that women have not been given adequate chances in literature in the past and have been expected to take on one-dimensional roles, which would make men, as well as women, miserable. The book also talks about how literature as an art wasn't exactly encouraged back in the day, both for men and for women. Overall Woolf makes a lot of great points and it's obvious she sees literature as being of utmost importance in the world.I enjoyed her wit and also her knowledge about literature in general.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paula Kalin

    Brilliant. Powerful. “How are we fallen! Fallen by mistaken rules, And Education’s more than Natures’s fools; Debarred from all improvements of the mind, And to be dull, expected and designed; And if someone would soar above the rest, With warmer fancy, and ambition pressed, So strong the opposing faction still appears, The hopes to thrive can ne’er outweigh the fears.” - Lady Winchilsea, born in 1661 Quoted by Virginia Woolf 5 out of 5 stars

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    Woman's Day Read Virginia Woolf, in a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928, talked about "Women and Fiction" - which were subsequently collected and expanded into this book. Of course, Virginia being Virginia, any straightforward lecture from her was impossible to expect. So discussions about women and fiction became a talk about "A Room of One's Own" - that too, a room reached by wandering aimlessly Woman's Day Read Virginia Woolf, in a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928, talked about "Women and Fiction" - which were subsequently collected and expanded into this book. Of course, Virginia being Virginia, any straightforward lecture from her was impossible to expect. So discussions about women and fiction became a talk about "A Room of One's Own" - that too, a room reached by wandering aimlessly through the impressionistic by-lanes of the author's stream of consciousness. I should never be able to fulfil what is, I understand, the first duty of a lecturer to hand you after an hour’s discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece for ever. All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved. Again, Virginia being Virginia, she not only pulls of the feat but makes it as fascinating any work of fiction penned by her. Because what else is fiction other than beautifully delivered lies, but lies which hold some fundamental truth within? Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. First of all, she creates a fictional alter-ego for her ("Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or any other name you please"). It is this Mary who narrates most of the lecture. The seed of the lecture is planted in her brain when she is not allowed to walk on the turf at Oxford by a Beadle - it is the prerogative of the Fellows and Scholars only; her shame and anger are further compounded by another incident when she is turned away from the library, where women are not permitted unless accompanied by a Fellow of the College or has a letter of introduction. And the anger keeps on growing, as her researches among the literati keep on harping on the theme of woman's inferiority as compared to man - all decided by male authors, of course! And she has one more perceptive insight: while instilling anger in her, the patriarchal male who controls all of society disparages females because he is angry himself - maybe because he doubted his own capability: Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority. To establish his superiority, the male necessarily has to trample the female down. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to one self. Women have served the purpose of providing the mirror, the distorting mirror that showed men as the larger-than-life heroes they deluded themselves to be: so keeping them in a subservient position, and limiting their lives to one of endless domesticity and drudgery, was essential from the male point of view. Our fictitious Mary Beton does some historical research on women authors from the sixteenth century onwards, and finds only a handful: basically ladies of aristocratic lineage, married to supportive husbands, and with no children. Even then, their literary output is viewed with disdain by men, resulting in many of these ladies writing solely in anger about their chains. It is not much different when we come to the nineteenth century either - the same anger is visible in Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot, who were forced to adopt male pseudonyms to sell their work. Hardly surprising - because a woman's life was not her own at all. ‘Wife-beating’, I read, ‘was a recognized right of man, and was practised without shame by high as well as low. . . Similarly,’ the historian goes on, ‘the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice, particularly in the “chivalrous” upper classes. . . Betrothal often took place while one or both of the parties was in the cradle, and marriage when they were scarcely out of the nurses’ charge.’ That was about 1470, soon after Chaucer’s time. This subjugated and terrorised being was totally different from the women portrayed by men in literature, however. A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband. It is here, that the relevance of a room of one's own (read: economic independence) becomes important. For our Mary Beton has the fortune to have it. My aunt, Mary Beton, I must tell you, died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. Of the two—the vote and the money—the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important... ...No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house and clothing are mine forever. Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me. So imperceptibly I found myself adopting a new attitude towards the other half of the human race. Having found a 'room of one's own', a woman can really come into her own. Her writing will be different from that of the male, because her sensitivities will be different. Where the male writes about war and football, she will write about feelings and murmurs within the drawing-room - considered no less important or trivial, however. One goes into the room—but the resources of the English language would be much put to the stretch, and whole flights of words would need to wing their way illegitimately into existence before a woman could say what happens when she goes into a room. The rooms differ so completely; they are calm or thunderous; open on to the sea, or, on the contrary, give on to a prison yard; are hung with washing; or alive with opals and silks; are hard as horsehair or soft as feathers—one has only to go into any room in any street for the whole of that extremely complex force of femininity to fly in one’s face. How should it be otherwise? For women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics. But this creative power differs greatly from the creative power of men. And one must conclude that it would be a thousand pities if it were hindered or wasted, for it was won by centuries of the most drastic discipline, and there is nothing to take its place. The literary woman, though different from the literary man, should not make any conscious effort to write based on her gender, however - because according to Virginia, being aware of one's sex in literature would kill all creativity. Each good writer, whether male or female, has both masculine and feminine sides. Their output is a composite of the makeup of their psyche. In closing, Woolf recalls a metaphor she used at the beginning - that of a fictitious sister of Shakespeare who came to London with as many dreams as he had, and perhaps even more talent than he had, but came to grief and an unmarked grave in a society essentially hostile to the woman intellectual. I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would he impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while. *** This is an intensely feminist piece - yet intensely feminine, too: Virginia Woolf makes her point, and in the process, writes a beautiful essay which is a work of art in its own right.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This book started its life as a series of lectures presented by Virginia Woolf at Cambridge University. What a great experience it must have been to hear her speaking. Her ideas are still solid to the present day and her writing style is wonderful. I think what I enjoyed most from A Room of One's Own was Woolf's logic and the examples she gave to prove her points. The fact that literature and all the arts were a man's domain for so long just because the expectations of women(marriage and child This book started its life as a series of lectures presented by Virginia Woolf at Cambridge University. What a great experience it must have been to hear her speaking. Her ideas are still solid to the present day and her writing style is wonderful. I think what I enjoyed most from A Room of One's Own was Woolf's logic and the examples she gave to prove her points. The fact that literature and all the arts were a man's domain for so long just because the expectations of women(marriage and child bearing) excluded them from having a place to work - a room of their own. I really enjoyed the time she allocated to writing about Jane Austen who is one of my all time favourites and definitely someone who moved beyond the expectations of society to follow her own dream. A short, educated, informative and very well written book, written a long time ago when values were different yet it still has great relevance today.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I have been mulling over what exactly I want to say about this important work that hasn't already been said. So I am just going to let Virginia Woolf do the talking. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.(page 971 of my Kindle copy) Lock up your libraries if you like;but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt, that you can set I have been mulling over what exactly I want to say about this important work that hasn't already been said. So I am just going to let Virginia Woolf do the talking. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.(page 971 of my Kindle copy) Lock up your libraries if you like;but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.(67% mark of my Kindle) Imagine what it must have been like when she was reading it! Goodreads review published 23/07/19

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    This is a mild book, and a short one, indeed a quick little read, I dragged it out rather more than one needs to. It was originally a lecture on women and fiction, the title is part of Woolf's conclusion. When I was reading Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass the thought emerged from the recesses of my head that a book is a wonderful thing - one person shares how they perceive the world with unknown people. For reasons I don't pretend to understand that idea didn't consolidate into the review This is a mild book, and a short one, indeed a quick little read, I dragged it out rather more than one needs to. It was originally a lecture on women and fiction, the title is part of Woolf's conclusion. When I was reading Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass the thought emerged from the recesses of my head that a book is a wonderful thing - one person shares how they perceive the world with unknown people. For reasons I don't pretend to understand that idea didn't consolidate into the review for that book, but it is fit to be recycled into this one. Naturally when one writer starts to pontificate about writing, one can begin to twitch or stare with the intensity of a dog or a child at a rustling packet. Perhaps there will be an insiders view on writers and writing - and indeed, our Ginny does share her opinions from custard and prunes not being, in her opinion, fit stuff to nourish the creative brain (view spoiler)[ since I am partial to prunes I guess that explains why I am not a novelist (hide spoiler)] to the existence in English literature of the perfect 'male' and 'female' sentence, but slowly what one secretly hopes for is the sudden sharp insight into the writer's own mind and the writer's perception of what is important and necessary to their own creative process. Here Woolf's prescription which she sticks at the head of her work is: Five hundred pounds a year of independent income and a room of ones own with a lock on the door - this so that Vita Sackville-West can't burst in and drag you off to the Chelsea Flower Show or Kew Gardens or some thing I guess. The five hundred pounds represents a modest income, sufficient to pay for your basic living costs and a few modest treats, not that you are rich, but that you don't need to use up brain power worrying about how you are going to pay the bills, no, enough money that you need only worry about the dreadful blank page, and a secure space in which one can worry without interruption. Woolf says that she will explain how she reached that conclusion and that is how she will discuss the question of Women and fiction. She does and she doesn't. Or rather the way in which she does so is rather like the relationship of a schematic map of an underground train network to a non-schematic map of the surface streets. I was amused to notice though that her argument could be represented by a comic strip of simple images. (1) Woman exists under Patriarchy (2) woman chased off grassy river bank by male authority figure (3) woman barred from entering university library without a letter from a man vouching for her (4) mysterious maiden aunt dies, leaving a modest inheritance to niece (5) woman with this money can close her own door behind herself, get away from various horrible little men (view spoiler)[ whoops, guilty as charged! (hide spoiler)] breathe deeply and write freely. Well that sounds fair enough but a few points come to mind (i) what about all those great women novelists who had no money of their own and not even necessarily a room of their own? (ii) this essay was published in 1929, we're at the beginning of the Great Depression, the inherited investments that gave this woman five hundred a year, won't do so in the future - ie what is commonly called 'real life' does intervene there can be no such tidy solutions even for archetypal aspiring writers, and related to that point V.W doesn't imagine the possibility of earning money through writing - I think this is crucial to thinking about Woolf and her creativity, but perhaps it a blind spot in how she thinks about other women writers and the possibilities of their creativity. (iii) I seem to have forgotten my iiird but never mind, too many prunes and ready made clothes no doubt. (iv) it's interesting how this is a fantasy solution which is I guess a soft and teasing way of saying if a woman wants to write, it's an uphill struggle to escape the daily worries and to find the mental capacity to worry about a good looking sentence instead. She does engage with that first point in an interesting way, she thinks that not having rooms of their own worked to the advantage of Jane Austen and the Brontes and so on, as they were always in the drawing room, or parlour or kitchen, sitting round talking or listening to chatter, this she holds worked to the benefit of their writing - the interesting thing here I feel is that if she thinks that was good for them, she doesn't think it is good for her or future women writers - she prescribes a room of one's own, not riding on omnibuses or sitting all day in Lyon's Tea Houses. For Woolf, fiction must become about the potential for the mind to be distracted only by itself, not about the observation of social interaction. Despite this Woolf likes Jane Austen as a stylist, the Brontes she finds a touch too angry, understandably she feels - which is why a woman needs her five hundred a year, with an independent income one can achieve freedom from the passions she feels. Woolf stresses the need for a tradition of women's writing - she feels it is difficult for women to be inspired by or write in response the men's writing, at the same time her own sense and knowledge of the tradition of women's writing seems particularly limited and parochial, which I feels also explodes her view that what a woman needs to write is five hundred a year and a room of her own because she also needs not just the possibility of actual physical interior space but according to Woolf knowledge of a literary context (or mental interior space) which in turn requires the availability of women writers and critical appreciation of the history of women writers which means women studying literature, women publishers, women book reviewers and women in academia or/ and men appreciative of women in literature and that in turn might require the breaking of various mind forg'd manacles. At the moment, writing in Brexit Britain I suspect I am hyper attuned to parochialism, still for most of the book the only non-English (view spoiler)[ for Woolf there were apparently no Welsh, Scots, Irish, American or other colonial English women writers worth mentioning (hide spoiler)] woman writer mentioned is George Sand, although at the end she also mentions Sappho and Lady Murakami - the latter I felt torpedoing Woolf's implicit view that the novel was a recent invention, a terra nulla open for women novelists to colonise, all this epitomised by her invention of Shakespeare's sister - what about Cornelia Goethe I thought, besides which one of the responses to Woolf's work has been to discover that there were Women playwrights in Tudor England, given the social context of the times they were aristocratic and their houseplays were distinct from public, commercial theatre, which is to say that a room of one's own is a dead end, one has to command the heights of what is called the cultural canon too - there is a selection of who is remembered and who is forgotten, battles have to be fought to keep people in memory, tradition and heritage have to be created. It is rather curious that at the same time she posits the possibility of a woman free in her room without any cultural context(view spoiler)[ indeed able to escape having anger or bitterness natural given her context (hide spoiler)] while assuring us that irrespective of talent at certain times the social and cultural context would mean that a woman with genius could not come to anything. I think here we are close to some of the peculiarities of Woolf and the Bloomsbury group more generally - she is aware that wealth is related to writing and that due to drudgery most voices, particularly those of women have been silent. She is aware that her woman with five hundred a year and a room of her own exists in a particular British context - she has the vote, she can own property, she has some educational and professional opportunities but she admits no need to expand these or that they need to be protected. While five hundred a year can make a woman a writer, Woolf sees no need to push for practical measures to give more women five hundred a year. Perhaps this is related to her snobbishness there is a context but it binds other people, not people like me. Equally her creativity is interior, she does not consider being in response to another writer or a readership, or a political or polemical need to write, she expresses her art independently (or so she seems to believe). Perhaps I'm wrong and hundreds of people dressed like Mrs Dalloway and queued at midnight by bookshops waiting for the official release of To the Lighthouse, or Orlando (view spoiler)[ on which note (hide spoiler)] I thought her position on the adoption of the pen names George Sand and George Elliot as indicative of some gender confusion puzzling, but I guess she was interested in the opinions of a number of people numbered in the dozens on her writing and doesn't see her writer as in any relationship with a readership, while we might well suspect that the rise of the woman writer is in relationship to the development of the woman reader as well as to some awareness of a tradition. Although, in practise for all that Woolf praises Austen's sentences thinking of them as the pure form of female writing was she really a literary great granddaughter of Austen or more in tune with the stylist concerns of her contemporaries? She has a sense of gendered essentialism in writing, the mind has a male and a female component, the genius she says, is from a literary point of view androgynous - drawing on both components, I wonder if this view draws more on C.G. Jung's anima and animus rather than a deep insight into the nature of creativity. For all her prejudice against the wearers of ready made clothes, and prunes(view spoiler)[ the comma useful, the person attempting to wear prunes too brave to be encouraged I think (hide spoiler)] this is quite a fun little book, you get a sense of the wit and liveliness of Woolf's thinking after a few years of great literary success for her.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    Virginia Plain Live Virginia Woolf constantly defies my expectations, always for the better. Nothing I had read prepared me for the light and comic touch of this short work (which is not to deny the lasting significance of its subject matter). The essay grew out of a talk she gave to the female students at two Cambridge Colleges in 1928. She edited and added to it afterwards. However, it still bears the traces of a live performance. It must have been inspiring to hear it in person. The Four Marys At Virginia Plain Live Virginia Woolf constantly defies my expectations, always for the better. Nothing I had read prepared me for the light and comic touch of this short work (which is not to deny the lasting significance of its subject matter). The essay grew out of a talk she gave to the female students at two Cambridge Colleges in 1928. She edited and added to it afterwards. However, it still bears the traces of a live performance. It must have been inspiring to hear it in person. The Four Marys At a metafictional level, an author, Virginia Woolf, is physically speaking. However, her narrator is someone else, Mary Hamilton, arguably one of the four Marys from the ballad of the same name: "‘I’ is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being...(call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please — it is not a matter of any importance)." Well, perhaps, it is of no historical importance, when it comes to kings and queens, but it is important in the historical progress of women. The essay is partly about the ability of women to write themselves back into history and literature, whether as authors or narrators. Obviously, it's also about the ability of women to write about female (and male) characters from the different perspective that they bring to the study: "Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them..." Women and Fiction Woolf offers her audience an amalgam of both fiction and non-fiction, just as she invites them to become writers of whatever subject matter: "If you would please me — and there are thousands like me — you would write books of travel and adventure, and research and scholarship, and history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science." Ostensibly, the title of her talk was "Women and Fiction". Her one piece of advice on that topic was: "...a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction..." How much money did a writer need? What could you do with it? Well, in 1928, she calculated: "Five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine...By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or 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." I haven't been able to work out whether 500 pounds is closer to $12,000 or $40,000 per annum now. However, this happened to be the amount of a legacy that she had supposedly received from her [fictional?] Aunt Mary Beton (the name of one of the "four Marys"). Pen Money It's been inferred that this was Woolf's way of saying that, in order to write, you had to be independently wealthy. This is quite the opposite of what she implied. She frequently talks about women "earning" the money that sustains them. She envisaged that writers would either have a day job or would earn the required amount from their writing. They would transition from the "pin money" given to them by their parents to "pen money" generated from their own writing. There were no limits. That time had already passed: "If there must be at this moment some two thousand women capable of earning over five hundred a year in one way or another, you will agree that the excuse of lack of opportunity, training, encouragement, leisure and money no longer holds good." Her audience was, after all, studying at Cambridge. Don't Give Up Your Day Job? Woolf brings a degree of optimism to the ambition to write. She wanted more women to write, so she and we could read more writing by women, and women could say what needed to be said. However, she doesn't seem to recognise the demands that work itself places on the potential writer. How can you write at night and on the weekends, if you've already worked a full week at your day job? Perhaps she anticipated that you could kill two birds with one stone, by earning your income from writing from the outset? This is a difficult enough task for a single woman. The challenges for a woman with a family were/are even greater: "How many women had children before they were twenty-one; what, in short, they did from eight in the morning till eight at night." A Room of One's Own This is part of the reason for the second limb of her advice (and the title of her book), that a woman needs a room of her own. Women, like men, lived in the family home. There was relatively little privacy. Few, except the patriarch of a wealthy family, could enjoy the luxury of a study. A drawing room or sitting room had to be shared with the rest of the family: "...to have a room of her own, let alone a quiet room or a sound-proof room, was out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble, even up to the beginning of the nineteenth century." There was no prospect of a "separate lodging which, even if it were miserable enough, sheltered them from the claims and tyrannies of their families." A Solitary Woman So far, Woolf's advice addresses practical issues, the reality of a woman writing. Her aim was to get women writing, by telling them what was required. However, to some extent, her advice applies equally to men. Anybody who wants to write, female or male, has to have some source of income, either from their own labour or that of their partner. Besides, the solitary and private nature of writing means that they frequently have to turn their back on their family. It's OK to have a room of one's own. However, you have to be prepared to close the door on a world that arguably should be your first priority (whatever the gender of the writer parent). Men might find this easier. Women would find it difficult to achieve without a supportive partner or a considerable amount of guilt. Woolf is concerned most of all with the reality of the life of a writer. It's this world into which she invites her audience: "When I ask you to earn money and have a room of your own, I am asking you to live in the presence of reality, an invigorating life, it would appear, whether one can impart it or not." The Androgynous Writer This concern with reality extends to what women write about and how they write about it. For all its intrinsic feminism, it seems that Woolf didn't think that women needed to write radically differently from men (which is not to say that all men wrote the way she thought they could or should). Woolf advances a theory about the androgynous writer, which is analogous to the views of Coleridge. She asks whether: "...there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness? "And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man. "The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her... "It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought." Shakespeare's Sister From this starting point, Woolf develops the proposition that men should write from a "man-womanly" point of view and women from a "woman-manly" point of view. She believes that Shakespeare lived up to the former description. Then she imagines the idea of Shakespeare's sister, "Judith", who would live up to the latter. On the other hand, she argues that women shouldn't write fiction from a polemical or political perspective: "...it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death." Woolf argues that writing is an internalised collaboration of the sexes: "Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness." What is most important is the capacity to portray both sexes credibly. Woolf is trying to achieve fiction that does justice to reality. In effect, Woolf challenges her female audience to write like Shakespeare's sister: "For my belief is that if we live another century or so [ed: 2028]...and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves...if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down." SOUNDTRACK: Joan Baez - "Mary Hamilton" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHd1m...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amy | shoutame

    A highly informative and interesting read. I would recommend to all who have an interest in feminism, creativity or woman in fiction. This is an extended essay taken from various lectures that Woolf gave during 1928. She uses a fictional narrator to discuss matters of woman in fiction and the creativity of woman throughout history. She sets a scene and describes how a sister of Shakespeare would of been treated had she had the same talent as her brother. She pulls out numerous texts in which men A highly informative and interesting read. I would recommend to all who have an interest in feminism, creativity or woman in fiction. This is an extended essay taken from various lectures that Woolf gave during 1928. She uses a fictional narrator to discuss matters of woman in fiction and the creativity of woman throughout history. She sets a scene and describes how a sister of Shakespeare would of been treated had she had the same talent as her brother. She pulls out numerous texts in which men describe the flaws of women (men sure did seem to like writing about our flaws!). These are just a couple of examples of the thought-provoking and interesting way Woolf gets her point across. Overall Woolf shows how the creativity of a woman can flourish if she is just given the figurative and literal 'room of one's own'. I thought it was great look into the ideas of the time and definitely shines a light on the way things are in our culture now. A great read that I would recommend to all!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rakhi Dalal

    The distant orange sky seems to merge into a violet-grey as a thin isolating streak rebels against their integration. She sits by the window, her gaze fixed at the thin streak, waiting unconsciously for it to reach the ubiquitous vast blackness of the sky. On the table, in her front, the pages of the open book ruffle whenever a whiff of air passes through the window into her room. Her ears, accustomed to the soundless sound of the pages, hear a symphony of the words played upon the notes of the The distant orange sky seems to merge into a violet-grey as a thin isolating streak rebels against their integration. She sits by the window, her gaze fixed at the thin streak, waiting unconsciously for it to reach the ubiquitous vast blackness of the sky. On the table, in her front, the pages of the open book ruffle whenever a whiff of air passes through the window into her room. Her ears, accustomed to the soundless sound of the pages, hear a symphony of the words played upon the notes of the disquiet encompassing her mind while all else is still. Slowly, they begin assuming a shape and the empty spaces are filled in black with inherent thoughts emerging unbeaten on the surface. This surge of thoughts, even from the disquiet, accompanies a tranquility which appears only occasionally. It appears when she is all alone in her room and more so, when all alone in her mind, when her mind is not bothered by the clutter of crockery while preparing dinner or by the ruffle of drying clothes on a rainy day, when her lovely kids are asleep and her mind is not filled with their incessant questions about the butterflies. And then, when it does appear, each cell in her body strives to clasp it and make it stay there for longer than she can have the luxury of. So, yes, while she does have an actual room of her own, the thoughts in her mind are not necessarily her own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    An interesting view from one of the twentieth centuries great writers. Woolf who never shied away from doing things differently again pushes the limits for her time. Woolf who was lucky enough to have a room of her own and a source of income looks at the past and her present and offers some thoughts. What if Shakespeare had an equally talented sister? Would we know her or would she have been married off or a servant? She also writes as a female narrator who explores the role of women writers for An interesting view from one of the twentieth centuries great writers. Woolf who never shied away from doing things differently again pushes the limits for her time. Woolf who was lucky enough to have a room of her own and a source of income looks at the past and her present and offers some thoughts. What if Shakespeare had an equally talented sister? Would we know her or would she have been married off or a servant? She also writes as a female narrator who explores the role of women writers for part of the book. She mentions a lesbian couple and follows up with a don't be surprised or embarrassed: its ok these things do happen. Perhaps a tip of the hat to Radclyffe Hall. Interesting look at how things change over time and how little things change over time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    May 舞

    I'd wanted to share my favourite quotes but then I realised that I would probably end up quoting half of the book, so instead of doing that, I would recommend that you go and read it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Well, once again Virginia Woolf has peeled back my thoughts and ideas, and as they lay open and receptive, she has filled them with her magnificent words, sentances and paragraphs. I don't read Virginia Woolf like I do my other books, even my beloved classics, but what I do is take my time to absorb completely what is being said. So a Woolf book will take me 2 or 3 times longer than another book of the same length. There is no 'plot' here, it is more an idea which bloomed into a lecture then took Well, once again Virginia Woolf has peeled back my thoughts and ideas, and as they lay open and receptive, she has filled them with her magnificent words, sentances and paragraphs. I don't read Virginia Woolf like I do my other books, even my beloved classics, but what I do is take my time to absorb completely what is being said. So a Woolf book will take me 2 or 3 times longer than another book of the same length. There is no 'plot' here, it is more an idea which bloomed into a lecture then took flight into this exploration of women writers (both real and imagined) through the ages. I loved it when she was descibing the purely fictitious 'Judith Shakespeare' and how although she was as a much as a genious as her brother, she would never have been able to write, or perform. How many women of utter genious, artists, writers, poets etc etc were lost to the world because society's idea that women weren't as good as, as equally capable as men. This is a feminist novel and indeed a part I deliberately read to a male friend which begins; 'Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice it's natural size' Let's just say it didn't go at all well.. Some quotes to finish. “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”  "The organ complained magnificently as I passed the chapel door. Even the sorrow of christianity sounded in that serene air more like the recollection of sorrow than sorrow itself; even the groanings of the ancient organ seemed lapped in peace." 4*

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Dubois

    A Room on One's Own passionated me from the beginning to the end! I read it in French, and when you read my English, you understand why! the book in my left hand, and a pen in my right hand. I first started to write down the relevant passages and the reflections it inspired me when I realized that I was noticing almost each page written by Virginia Woolf! So, as I don’t want to bore you with a long paraphrase of Virginia’s text, I’ll rather give you, randomly, a few passages that particularly A Room on One's Own passionated me from the beginning to the end! I read it in French, and when you read my English, you understand why! the book in my left hand, and a pen in my right hand. I first started to write down the relevant passages and the reflections it inspired me when I realized that I was noticing almost each page written by Virginia Woolf! So, as I don’t want to bore you with a long paraphrase of Virginia’s text, I’ll rather give you, randomly, a few passages that particularly questioned me. Having time for oneself is a luxury: Ô how much I understand Virginia when she evokes the harmony between oneself, the place, and the time, when one’s body is present but when one’s mind goes further. I remember rare times when I felt that way. Rare, because perhaps this feeling is only given to the human beings who have the leisure to let their thoughts go according to the running water. And when, like me and you surely, one has a job, responsibilities towards children who depend on one, one unfortunately has little time to meditate quietly, in a place peaceful enough to encourage the daydream of mind. So, like Virginia, when comes to me the beginning of an idea for a novel or character, and that I have no time to note it, at night after my working day, desperate, I realize that the idea has escaped, and this makes me furious! Intellectual people and food: As a gourmand (or maybe as a French woman?), I was amused by Virginia's remark on the fact English novelists and writers, when they remember a meal, don’t mention what they ate, but only what they thought and said. And I agree with Virginia: a conversation during a meal is totally different weather you eat quality food or pebble soup! This fact surprised me because, the writers whose life and books I like: Theophile Gautier, Dumas, Balzac, George Sand, Flaubert and others, always talk about, in their memoirs, memories or correspondences, what they ate. They invited each other for diner as often as possible and I’m sure that a good meal unbinds minds more easily! A human being is not a pure brain. A writer cannot be summed up in his mind: he’s also a body that eats and loves. The way we eat and the way we love are an integral part of ourselves, of our thought. Women and motherhood: Virginia raises the issue of motherhood. A woman is no less a woman because she doesn’t want or cannot have children. But what about those who have some? Like Virginia, I think having a child takes much more than nine months: it takes years, because a mother accompanies her child in the beginning of his life. This takes time physically: during this time, a mother can hardly read or work. Work in the sense of earning the money that gives freedom, let’s not even talk about "making a career". Having children also takes an immaterial time: a mother has her mind turned towards her child and therefore, she has little time to think of anything else. Well, at least, it has been my case. Therefore, I don’t think it's a waste of time. It’s an experience which enriches a woman's affect, heart and mind. The problem, for a woman who would want and who could express herself in a career, whatever it is, is not motherhood even if it can last for years when a woman has two or three children and accompanies them for a while. The problem is that, meanwhile, men make a career, and then, they don’t care about accompanying the woman in her return to work. They consider that the woman did nothing. So the problem is always the same: what place do men leave to women, in fact, in the society? Urbanity is the daughter of luxury: Virginia writes that «urbanity, geniality and dignity are the offspring of luxury and privacy and space». This small passage reminded me of Germinal by Zola: it’s so true that from misery, a too hard job, and promiscuity at home, cannot come the uplifting of the soul and mind. And I think of Théophile Gautier, Balzac, Dumas, George Sand, and so many other brilliant writers who were so bored in high school that they preferred to follow their own way. To be free of thinking one’s own way, to be one’s own master of one’s researches, to think and write exactly what one wants, according to one’s own tastes and not those of teachers, is priceless. Well… I could add, it has only the unfortunate price not to find a French publisher because one is too independent, but that’s another story! Self-confidence: Virginia writes, " Life for both sexes is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle." Virginia is absolutely right! Without self-confidence, one does nothing! I can say it because I experienced it, it was even a revelation for me a few years ago. For some, due to their education or their peaceful childhood, self-confidence is natural. For others, self-confidence is something that must be acquired, sometimes in tears. But then, once we get it, what a victory, what a happiness! And perhaps self-confidence is, for me at least, and unlike Virginia, what is more important to express oneself, more than a room on one’s own or money. The world doesn’t need literature: Virginia writes: "Further, accentuating all these difficulties and making them harder to bear is the world's notorious indifference. It does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them. It does not care whether Flaubert finds the right word…" And here I'm sure she must have read Flaubert's correspondence with George Sand, because that's exactly what Flaubert wrote to his dear friend George Sand: he was sorry and upset that people didn’t need literature! Ah, my good Flaubert liked to complain! Money and genius: Money, of course, is important. It’s so difficult to live without. But I don’t think, to continue on this page of chapter three, that without money there can be no genius. Flaubert, since Virginia takes it, on many occasions, as an example, would have also written with less money; as well as Balzac, who spent his life running after money while bailiffs ran after him! And the examples are numerous ... With more or less money, all these writers would still have written. Maybe not on the same topics and in the same prose, but they would have written, because genius was in them. Writing in the common room: In chapter four, starting with the paragraph beginning with: "Here, then, one had reached the early nineteenth century…" I can see myself there! I mean, of course, not in the talent of a Jane Austen, but in the conditions in which these women writers wrote. It’s in the common room of my home that I began to write and that I still write! What a chance to have a woman's brain that can multiply! How, otherwise, would I have been able to have my mind in my novels, at the same time an eye on the clock not to miss appointment of my daughter at the dentist’s, or to watch over my son, and the dinner cooking? So when Jane Austen's nephew is surprised that she was able to write in such conditions, it's because he's a man and he doesn’t have the ability to multiply his attention without dashing either his work or his children! What women still have to do: Throughout the book one can think that these thoughts about women’s place in the society, although instructive, belongs to history; today, unfortunately not in all countries, women are almost equal to men, if not in fact, at least in rights. We can also think that when Virginia urges women to write, even almost anything, to pave the way for a great female poet or novelist, yes, we can think: Okay, Virginia, but I, gifted or banal, I am neither a writer nor a poet; so why to ask me for it? It’s at the very end of this Room on One’s Own that Mrs. Woolf opens the depths of her thought: this book is not addressed to men, nor to each particular woman who reads it. This book is for all women in the world! And here is the genius of Virginia who tells each one of us all together: free your thought, free your actions. It will be the sum of all these liberated women, each one according to her strengths and her weaknesses, according to her intellectual and material ways, it will be this common progression which will one day open the way for some exceptional women. Women who will write pages so beautiful, so deep, that they will illuminate the generations of women to come. What a blow on the world, what an open mind, what a generous vision! It’s easy to understand, then, that Virginia Woolf, with a mind so above ordinary mortals (and men!), despaired among our narrow thoughts. You think I said everything and you don't have to read the book? Far from it! Run to the library and open this "Room on One's Own", please!

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