A Room of One’s Own is the first book I read by Virginia Woolf. I’m so glad I started reading Woolf with this book; I can say that it was a great adventure in terms of getting to know both the author and myself. Those who always despise women will tell Woolf is just a sad feminist. But beyond feminism, we have a woman who can change the world with her pen.
A Room of One’s Own states that women will have a tough time writing without a room of their own and a sufficient income to support them. And it explains this issue in a beautiful way by giving examples of women in English history. The author’s speeches at Cambridge University in 1928 shaped this book’s contents. Although it is heartbreaking to see that not much has changed since then, unfortunately, after reading Woolf’s last pages, one stands stronger by confronting the truth.
Have you ever thought of writing or doing anything male-specific (we all know who decides this) and got ridiculous comments around? Did people ever look at you as if you were rotten and smelled when you couldn’t clean, eat, or have children? What if the same thing happened to your brother? Or any man you know? Huh! Although it only focuses on the topic of writing, this book will make you think more. Something will open in your mind, and some things will be forgotten forever. You will love it, please, but please read it! Enjoy!
A Room of One’s Own
A Room of One’s Own is Virginia Woolf’s most powerful feminist essay, justifying the need for women to possess intellectual freedom and financial independence.
Based on a lecture given at Girton College, Cambridge, the essay is one of the great feminist polemics, ranging in its themes from Jane Austen and Carlotte Brontë to the silent fate of Shakespeare’s gifted (imaginary) sister and the effects of poverty and sexual constraint on female creativity.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is regarded as a major twentieth-century author and essayist, a key figure in literary history as a feminist and modernist, and the centre of ‘The Bloomsbury Group’. Between 1925 and 1931 Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One’s Own (1929).
If you enjoyed A Room of One’s Own, you might like Woolf’s Orlando, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘Probably the most influential piece of non-fictional writing by a woman in this century’
Hermione Lee, Financial Times
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) is recognised as one of the most innovative writers of the 20th century. Perhaps best known as the author of Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), she was also a prolific writer of essays, diaries, letters and biographies. Both in style and subject matter, Woolf’s work captures the fast-changing world in which she was working, from transformations in gender roles, sexuality and class to technologies such as cars, airplanes and cinema.
Influenced by seminal writers and artists of the period such as Marcel Proust, Igor Stravinsky and the Post-Impressionists, Woolf’s work explores the key motifs of modernism, including the subconscious, time, perception, the city and the impact of war. Her ‘stream of consciousness’ technique enabled her to portray the interior lives of her characters and to depict the montage-like imprint of memory.
Woolf’s work often explored her fascination with the marginal and overlooked: of ‘an ordinary mind on an ordinary day’, as she put in her essay ‘Modern Fiction’ (1919/25). In ‘The Art of Biography’ (1939), she argued that
The question now inevitably asks itself, whether the lives of great men only should be recorded. Is not anyone who has lived a life, and left a record of that life, worthy of biography – the failures as well as the successes, the humble as well as the illustrious
She refused patriarchal honours like the Companion of Honour (1935) and honorary degrees from Manchester and Liverpool (1933 and 1939), and wrote polemical works about the position of women in society, such as A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). In Flush (1933) she wrote of the life of the spaniel owned by the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in Orlando (1928), she fictionalised the life of her friend Vita Sackville-West into that of a man-woman, born in the Renaissance but surviving till the present day.
Besides her writing, Woolf had a considerable impact on the cultural life around her. The publishing house she ran with her husband Leonard Woolf, the Hogarth Press, was originally established in Richmond and then in London’s Bloomsbury, an area after which the ‘Bloomsbury Set’ of artists, writers and intellectuals is named. Woolf’s house was a hub for some of the most interesting cultural activity of the time, and Hogarth Press publications included books by writers such as T S Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Katherine Mansfield, E M Forster, and the Woolfs themselves.
Born Virginia Adeline Stephen in 1882, her parents were Leslie Stephen (1832–1904), the founder of the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, and his second wife, Julia Duckworth (1846–1895). Woolf’s father – who was later knighted for services to literature – gave her the run of his substantial library. Her mother, father and brother died in quick succession, and she suffered from poor mental health for much of her life, committing suicide in 1941.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: