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A Room of One’s Own

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A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on the 24th of 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 and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled Women and Fiction, and hence the essay, are considered nonfiction. The essay is seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.

112 pages, Paperback

First published October 24, 1929

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About the author

Virginia Woolf

1,251 books23k followers
(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929) with its famous dictum, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,387 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
February 24, 2020
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!
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,127 followers
May 29, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,301 reviews22k followers
January 2, 2008
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.
Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
June 14, 2023
sometimes i forget people from old times could also be funny.

but this...

this book is brilliant and witty.

the fact that it was once delivered as a speech is unreal. imagine hearing this spoken to you!!! i would have to lay on the ground at the 17% mark. no way my body is holding me up through these words entering my ear canal. collapse imminent, if not outright combustion.

it's literally insane how well this, a hundred year old discussion of then-current events, holds up.

so weird when i have to be nice for a whole review, but this is the good stuff.

bottom line: what a surprise, a speech that's lasted over a century is worthwhile! i'm full of hot takes.

4.5 stars

tbr review

this book shares a title with a presentation i made to my parents after sharing a room with my sisters for 10 years
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
551 reviews60.4k followers
January 21, 2023
Considered one of the first feminist essay, this book brings up an interesting argument.
A woman could not have written Shakespeare's work because she would have needed "a room of her own". Essentially, an education, the capacity to travel the world and the independence needed to do so.

She goes on to say that the key element for her to be able to become a writer was money/financial independence. I agreed with her up to that point.

However, I think that she was able to "let go of her anger and resentment towards men/society" because she was a white woman. Money wouldn't be enough for all women. She mentions that women have had the right to vote for 9 years as she's writing but not all women... Basically her feminism lacks intersectionality.

I'll probably have mix feelings about older feminist works for similar reasons but I think it's interesting to see how things have progressed.

Her writing style is not for me. So dense. If English is also not your first language, be prepared!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
September 9, 2021
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.

مجموعه مقالات و سخنرانیهای «وولف» درباره نویسندگی زنان؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سوم مارس سال 2004میلادی

عنوان: اتاقی از آن خود؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: صفورا نوربخش؛ ویراستار: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1383، در 160ص؛ شابک چاپ چهارم در سال 1388: 9789644482144؛ موضوع: نقد تاریخی زنان هنرمند از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

با ترجمه خانم: معصومه مهرشادی؛ تهران، روزگارنو، 1391، در 176ص، شابک 9786006867335؛

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» رهایشان نمی‌کند، و بر آن می‌شوند، 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

نقل از متن: (آیا باید جنگ را مقصر بدانیم؟ در ماه اوت سال 1914میلادی که توپ‌ها شلیک شدند، آیا مردان و زنان به راحتی در چهره‌ ی یکدیگر خواندند که عشق و عاشقی نابود شده است؟ بی شک دیدن چهره ی رهبرانمان در نور آتشبار، به خصوص برای زنان، با خواب و خیال‌هایشان درباره ی تعلیم و تربیت و چیزهای دیگر، ضربه‌ ی روحی تکان‌ دهنده‌ ای بوده) پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 17/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
March 30, 2020
‘there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’

i am so, so, so grateful as a woman to live in a time where my education is an expectation and my creativity is encouraged. i try to imagine myself 100 years in the past and i hope i would be the kind of woman woolf was - someone who understood the importance of granting women equal opportunities in work and school and who bravely expressed her opinions.

and what i would give to be able to have attended the lecture where woolf delivered this speech. i will admit i sometimes struggled with reading the stream-of-consciousness style this address employs and i definitely think a verbal presentation of the essay would be much more effective.

regardless, i appreciate woolf, and authors like her, who inspired the movement for gender equality, especially in the field of literature.

4 stars
Profile Image for Adina .
889 reviews3,536 followers
September 20, 2022
It’s Virginia Woolf so of course I like it.

A Room of One's Own is an extended essay, which was started as a series of lectures about Women and fiction. That the essay became a bit something else does not surprise anyone who read Virginia Woolf and knows how complex and meandering her writing is. In short, Woolf argues that a woman, to be able to fully exercise her creativity and self-expression needs money of her own and freedom (aka, a room where to be herself). It is a feminist text, which reminds us, once again, that it was (is?) much harder to be a successful woman in a patriarchal world.

Among her arguments, she imagines a fictional Judith, a sister of Shakespeare, trying to succeed as a play-writer. Her verdict was that she would have ended up either as an outcast or insane. She goes further, using Shakespeare: “Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers - how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!”
I remember that the essay started with her failed attempt to enter an Oxbridge library because she was not accompanied by a man. She continues to mention other frustrating every-day occurrences, which seem unimportant but take away a woman freedom to create. She also mentions how men scholars write about women and their biased opinion.
Profile Image for Jack Edwards.
Author 1 book205k followers
May 28, 2019
Fascinating and influential feminist theories but slow and tiresome in getting to the point
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 17, 2019
”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.

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Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
September 21, 2018
“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!
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
December 4, 2017
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

Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,452 reviews2,400 followers
November 13, 2022
***this book is calling me***

"So that 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."

She sounds like my long lost soul.

"Women are hard on women. Women dislike women. Women - but are you not sick to death of the word?"
My thoughts after reading this book:

She is one hell of a writer. She meant to write this book on women and writing looking back when women would not even dare to think about it. She goes to the library and make notes on this but like me, she's good at losing track of her own thoughts (but comes back to them nevertheless).

I wouldn't declare myself a hardcore feminist nor would I pretend to be someone who has read lots of important literature and all the books in the entire world's library collections to judge this book in the form of writing a critical review or any kind of arguments on the contents of this book.

Feminism to me is still a subjective matter and I consider myself as someone who is still ignorant and has too less knowledgeable when it comes to it.

As for the authors and the writers in history who Virginia Woolf had made references in the book, I would say the same. I am still ignorant about these authors and writers or their works and lives.

I haven't read much of classics yet. And I do feel it's would be pretty petty of me to argue about the statements and the arguments made in this book. And for that matter, I feel I would not even rate such books as such books are based on the writers' opinions. As by now, I know It's futile if I try to judge someone else's opinion. Discussion and arguing on a matter is one thing, trying to prove someone else's opinion doesn't do me any good.

So when I started reading this book, I was just curious about how Virginia Woolf wrote. I didn't look up the premise or anything regarding this book. The first book that I tried reading was To The Lighthouse. I wasn't just into it. I left it after struggling myself to read 3 pages or so.

This book was thought provoking and rather stimulating for me. The enthusiasm in her writing showed. Just as we readers have strong opinions on the books we have read, she was one such reader who had strong opinions on the lack of writings by women authors.

So many a time, I felt like she was indicating that women were not writing because of the ridiculousness of everyone during those times in the past that women shouldn't even dream about writing. Their only existence should revolve around homekeeping and bearing children. I would say there's a fair chance of that but nevertheless, I would not rather just believe whatever explanations and possible reasons that were written in this book. Most of the records and scripts of the past might not have been recorded or kept safe. Who knows? But yes, I do believe women have been focusing all their lives on mere household keeping and everything mundane things to keep the children and men do as they please. I would say it's still happening and I am aware of it every single waking moment of my everyday normal life.

Fair points have been made. Even if I say so, I am not confident enough to say so because I haven't read those authors and their work. So I would stay open to first becoming familiar to these and make a comment later on.

Some parts are just mere ramblings I would say.

And even if I haven't read everything by Jane Austen, not a single book by Charlotte Brontë or by George Eliot, I feel it was rather distasteful in my opinion to compare their writings over one another. I felt like Charlotte Brontë was her favourite amongst these few women writers in history, she was almost bashing other women writers for whatever they had written and hinting that their writings were somewhat inferior in comparison. Her opinion. But the Jane Austen lover in me got a bit insulted. Subjective opinions of different readers. Fair point.

There are six chapters in all. The first chapter is very, very easy to get into. I am glad I picked up this book as my first completed read by the author. Her fiction works doesn't sync with my reading. I will give them a try later on. But her non-fiction, essays are really easy to get into.

The first chapter is rather chaotic in my opinion. Then followed the rest of the chapters following the works of fiction mostly by prominent men writers in history and giving her opinions on why there was a total lack of women writers during those periods.

My least favourite chapter was the 5th one. I do respect her general opinions on everything else but I still find it rather outrageous to focus on just one female writer of the past who she probably thought had inferior writing skills. That chapter made the book less interesting for me. Her opinions might be general. But I just couldn't see the point of bashing one author. And we all know that writers are different and their work will be different from the rest. We just cannot force our opinions on some specific writers to write something we consider better work.

My most favourite part of the book was the last chapter!
I would just reread that chapter again and again. If I happen to reread this book one day, I would be satisfied just reading the last chapter of this book. It expresses well the writer's opinion on both the sexes, valuable thoughts on what could make a difference in the lives of women in general if we are self-sufficient and have means to provide for ourselves rather than depending on others and keep writing without the fears and apprehension that we women tend to have.

(Why am I writing so much?!


Virginia might come and judge if I don't write, I told myself. She wanted us women to write.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,222 followers
April 12, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Dilushani Jayalath.
995 reviews162 followers
December 24, 2020
The true pressure one finds themselves in when writing a review can be really taxing. I have had this review open for the past 10 minutes, typing and deleting the first few sentences. Especially when you are an amateur writer and still unable to truly put to words what is felt inside. Virginia Woolf is one of the greatest feminist authors out there. No, the correct manner to express who she truly is by telling that she was one of the foremost feminists at a time the word feminism was growing. A Room of One’s Own is not her most celebrated works but it is among some of her best. Since the day I chanced upon a newsletter of a women’s society I’ve been following that had an extract from this wonderful novel, I have been dying to read this. I’ve been pulling apart bookshops in my area looking for it and finally managed to find myself a copy in Colombo. In all honesty I had been counting down minutes till I got back home to start on it.

Although in a sense that this letter is contextually more appropriate for a time passed by with many progressive steps taken into the freedom of women, in our little pearl of an island, many of the core elements in it, does still resonate. One of the main reasons is the position of women as a whole in Sri Lanka is miles behind that of other countries and whilst reading this novel, a part of me that I did not know I possessed, awakened. It is not that I was suddenly motivated to go around spreading feminist agendas but rather that I should take a stand against myself, the amount of patriarchal notions that have been inbred to me should be dropped and that as a woman I should look at myself as a human being that deserves as much as the my male colleague sitting next to me at work. At one glance it would seem I am sprouting some utter nonsense because of the sense of capitulation I have been forcing upon myself.

There are many aspects and themes of this book that could be discussed for an immense amounts of time. Woolf was an author thinking beyond her era. I myself am a huge fan of Jane Austen and the points that Woolf had broached while researching for this, shines a new light for everything. As I have mentioned before, although many of them have been successfully somewhat addressed, here in Sri Lanka and South Asia in general women are still facing them. The ability for women to reach a certain level accomplishment is always foreshadowed with them being labeled as money hoarders or apathetic women. One might ask why I used the word apathetic rather than any other here but that is stemming from the fact that few hours before I got home from work I was listening to a conversation of few people in the line of the supermarket and the manner in which they were describing this one woman in Sri Lanka that gained popularity these few days for standing up to cause was generally of that sense. Are women who strive to achieve something unemotional? Not looking at their families? Are women only to look after children and make sure the man gets his dinner on the table at the proper time? Many of those who read my review will say that this era of women is long passed. Sadly it is not, if one would look at families in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Middle Eastern, this pattern has not yet dissolved away. Women around the world are oppressed. What are we as women still doing? If anyone who knows me personally would say I myself am not a great orator or someone who would do something to change a person’s life but what I have learnt through this is the first steps should be taken by ourselves. Within us. If we do not start at the proper beginning we might end up not reaching the true ending.

So the real question is, how far have we come since the day Woolf imparted this letter to the women at Cambridge to 2020 when I am writing this review? In a sense what Woolf mentioned in the novel is true. This cannot be achieved at once. It is a slow process, but for each slow process, the more gears that are added, which are well oiled, the faster the machine may work. But we should know that we should not add too much or the wheels will spin out of order and we might end up with a broken machine. “Therefore I would ask you to write all kinds of books. Hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast. By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourself 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 street.” In lieu for the International Women’s Day that has passed, I can respond firmly for the question that we have indeed come far since the days of Woolf but still not far enough. Yet it’s always a constant question in my head, at what cost have we come here? For a parade of “Instagram selfie queens”? I am quite sure this is not the freedom envisioned by Woolf.

It is not that I ask you to keep me in a throne but it is that I implore you to let me eat from the same table as you.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,674 followers
October 5, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Tara.
205 reviews289 followers
March 11, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews490 followers
July 15, 2021
If a book can stir you, teach you, and guide you as a woman and as a writer, none would do a better job than A Room of One's Own. It is a brilliant work and a masterpiece, “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.” And to me, this work is the collective body that represents the common voice of the women who have struggled to express them through the written word.

The book or rather the essay contains Virginia 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 Virginia doesn't 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 a 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 Virginia 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 Virginia has spoken entirely about 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 a 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. And I express my heartfelt gratitude to Virginia Woolf for this brilliant masterpiece which would certainly change me both as a woman and a writer.


After this third read, I pondered more on Virginia Woolf's contemplation on what would have happened if Shakespeare had a sister with equal genius. Virginia is absolutely sure that in the 17th century if a woman of the 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 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 or prejudice? Virginia Woolf's observations, made in the early 20th century, still ring true to a greater extent.
Profile Image for Violeta.
86 reviews77 followers
November 28, 2021
Mundane though it may be I couldn’t help thinking throughout this little gem of a book that I’m being reacquainted, this time in stunning English prose, with a thought that had been drilled into me ever since I became aware of the real world. The thought had been communicated in practical every day language, not the least bit literary but urgent to be heard nevertheless. It was this: money, the luxury of owing it and the capacity to earn it in order to support one’s self, is indispensable to freedom, self-expression and self-preservation.

Both my grandmothers, born a decade or two later than Woolf, had neither rooms nor money of their own and when they were her age at the time she wrote this (40) the idea that such commodities were achievable was out of reach for them here in the European South. My mother, on the other hand, was among the few of her social environment to manage having both, however modest. Her rural family couldn’t provide her with a dowry other than a state-funded practical education that secured her an urban job and a freedom that must have seemed exotic to her fellow village girls. My own middle-class upbringing gave me the privilege of choice between academia or a respectably-paying job. And my daughters are luckily living lives that enable them to act and think in ways their great-grandmothers wouldn’t have dreamed of.

One of those grandmothers was illiterate, the other was allowed to complete grammar school, they probably wouldn’t have known what to make of this book’s inspired train of thought had it miraculously found its way to them. My mother can’t read the English original but she has earned the right to read and know what to make of her readings. I’m going to find a nice Greek translation and I’m sure she’ll feel the meaning of the text to her bones. Myself, I’m fortunate enough to have the room, time, knowledge and empathy to properly appreciate both the beauty of Woolf’s language and the brilliance of her arguments. My girls have all the above but perhaps lack the empathy, having grown up in a society where what Woolf describes as women’s burning desires are taken for granted – at least in some parts of this world. I can only wish that it will be curiosity and not a sense of having joined the club that will one day lead them to it; the English text of course – this goes without saying for their generation.

Now all this says next to nothing about the book itself (but maybe not). It says something about where Woolf’s sisters were, are and hopefully will be; I’d like to think she would have smiled at the thought of just that.
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
1,016 reviews537 followers
December 19, 2016
Hace unos meses un amigo me recomendó este libro, y ahora me arrepiento de no haberlo leído antes. Sin lugar a dudas es una pequeña joya revestida de ensayo, que te arrastra con su lenta caricia hacia el pasado, cuando la mujer vivía a la sombra del hombre. Un magnífico ensayo sobre la mujer y la escritura...
Profile Image for Macy_Novels at Night.
23 reviews51 followers
November 21, 2018
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!
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,103 followers
March 17, 2015

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.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
503 reviews522 followers
March 13, 2020
En este breve ensayo, Virgina Woolf reflexiona sobre el lugar de la mujer en la sociedad, en las diferentes épocas y, sobre todo, en relación a la literatura. La autora da un repaso a las diferentes circunstancias que provocan la dificultad de las mujeres para dedicarse a la labor de escribir o la falta de experiencias como resultado de la sociedad patriarcal y las trabas que esta les pone.

Me han encantado todas sus reflexiones. Esta mujer fue muy adelantada a su época. Muchísimas reflexiones podemos verlas en nuestros días aún poco entendidas por gran parte de la sociedad y ya ella las tenía claras hace un siglo. ¡Impresionante!

Muy interesante también el análisis que hace de autoras como Jane Austen o las Brönte, Emily y Charlotte (jamás perdonaré que la historia le haya dado la espalda a mi Anne), entre otras autoras. El don de estas autoras que, aún teniendo vetada la riqueza del hombre en experiencias, viajes, estudios o conocimientos, habían conseguido obras muy notables.

Un cosa muy interesante es como trata y relfeja el asunto de la creencia de superioridad masculina a lo largo de los años por estos mismos, dando de lleno en el clavo. Esta cita lo explica bastante bien: "Este deseo profundamente arraigado en el hombre no tanto de que ella sea inferior, sino más bien de ser él superior". La clave es esa, el hombre para sentirse por encima, necesita que la mujer este por debajo. Y en eso reside el duro camino que ha tenido que recorrer la mujer en todos los aspectos de la vida, y en particular, del que habla este libro, el oficio de escribir.

En cuanto a la representación de las mujeres a lo largo de la historia a través de la visión de los hombres, Virginia también hace una crítica bastante clara: el hombre siempre idealiza a la mujer en varios "tipos" de mujer. La prostituta, la madre o la criada. Pocas veces los personajes femeninos tenían más complejidad tanto en su forma de ser, como en sus deseos íntimos, y tardaría mucho en llegar personajes femeninos complejos y completos.

Siempre me habían dicho que Virginia Woolf era una autora bastante densa y, sin embargo, este libro se me ha hecho super ameno y ágil. Quizás otras obras serán más complejas de seguir, pero, en cualquier caso, me alegro mucho de haberme iniciado con ella a través de este libro. Una joya que merece cada gota de fama que tiene. Ahora quiero más.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
July 23, 2020
Gripping and modern take on privilege and feminism - 4.5 stars rounded up
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.

An essay, non-fiction...
A poor child in England has little more hope than had the son of an Athenian slave to be emancipated into that intellectual freedom of which great writings are born. That is it. Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.
I am on a roll this year with Virginia Woolf and she keeps surprising me positively.

A Room of One's Own is an edited essay based on a series of speeches held by Woolf.
She tackles women and fiction (and already concludes the following at the start of the book: I have shirked the duty of coming to a conclusion upon these two questions - women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems), but in the end I think the main topic is privilege.
The impact of privilege is brilliantly illustrated by the fictional life of Judith Shakespeare, the every bit as talented sister to the playwright who, by being a woman would have been treated immensely different in her contemporary England. This thought expirement of Woolf made me think of the following webcomic in terms of clarity and insightfulness:

How women are written about by men but not the other way around is also tackled heads on by Woolf. She describes how wealth together with being free from childcare, and the time this gives, offers the opportunity for creating art (Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for).
In one sentence she captures all this most eloquently:
Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers - how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer!

...and the spark of fiction we know from the novels of Woolf
Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact.
And don't be fooled: Virginia Woolf even in an essay brings scenes to live with incredible clarity.
The start of Chapter VI, with the vibrancy of everyday London, reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway while the quick steps through history and reflections on gender closely link to Orlando, completed only one year earlier.

At the start of the book she whisks us away to an autumn day in Oxbridge, where you see the lightfal, taste the partridge in the luncheon (because: One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well), feel her anger at being denied to a library which she can’t visit without a man.
I could not stop falling for her wit and sharpness. How she describes effortlessly, through one seemingly everyday afternoon, the centuries of women been denied the means to found colleges and to start scholarships, and are still restricted.

She ends brilliantly by asking her audience to not let themselves be tied to gender, to embrace the androgynous nature of the mind and use all of the opportunities the past 10 years (after suffrage was achieved in 1919) has opened up to women.
It’s like a brilliant version of the message Mary Beard from a classical historical perspective investigated in Women and power, and I was left once more deeply impressed by Virginia Woolf her talent and the relevancy of her 1929 work to the 2020 MeToo world.
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
January 21, 2018

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.
Profile Image for Mark André .
117 reviews249 followers
April 2, 2021
A most interesting piece now almost a hundred years old, but still totally relevant. I would suspect Woolf might be pleased with the progress that has been made in investing women into certain high profile professions like law or medicine or politics or education; and that she would probably be quite disappointed with the social and economic handicaps still imposed by primitive and outdated male prejudices.
Profile Image for ALet.
292 reviews240 followers
July 5, 2020
★★★★★ /5
This was a truly great book. Captivating and honest, it kept my attention and was quick but on the other hand really important read. I really liked statements she made and just general her though process and conclusions were logical and thought-provoking.
Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Dolors.
540 reviews2,278 followers
October 22, 2017
"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.
Profile Image for فرشاد.
150 reviews298 followers
November 28, 2018
صدایی که پس از دهه‌ها از پس ویرانه‌های جنگ جهانی دوم از ویرجینیا ولف در این کتاب به گوش می‌رسد،‌ برای زمانه ما بیش از اندازه تاریخی و کهنه شده است. ولف، اتاقی شخصی و درآمدی سالیانه را شالوده‌ای برای تحقق امکان برابری زن و مرد دانسته است. گذر زمان نشان داده است که آگاهی و آزادی اندیشه را نمی‌توان به بهای نازل سالانه پانصد دلار و اتاقی از آن خود بدست آورد. پس از قریب به صد سال، جامعه زورسالار، اتاقی از آن خود را نه فقط برای زنان آگاه و نخبه، بلکه برای خیل بزرگی از مردان، به زندان انفرادی و مدفن اندیشه‌ها تبدیل کرده است که به تعبیر زیبای شاملو، نور در آن نهان و گرفتار شده است. اتاقی که تمامی جهان در آن خلاصه می‌شود و تمامی فضای خارج از آن، آکنده از فشار و رنج و پریشانی خاطر و تشویش است. اتاقی از آن خود حالا ضمانتی برای حکومت‌هاست که فرایند به انزوا کشیده شدن نخبگان و کم‌اثر کردن محافل بحث و انجمن‌های گفتگوی عمومی را تضمین می‌کند.

نظرات ولف، تنها یک روی سکه را آشکار می‌کند. به شیوه‌ای خردمندانه از امیدها می‌گوید و دربرابر تهدیدات، سکوت می‌کند. از این چشم‌انداز، ولف مشابهت زیادی با نیچه دارد. اما به بلوغ نیچه نمیرسد. نیچه آنگاه که از مواجهه با پلشتی و پلیدی چهره انسانی دلزده میشود به اتاقی در کوهستانهای یخ‌زده پناه میبرد. ولف هم در رویای چنین فرار شکوهمندی است. زیبایی کار نیچه در آن است که او از ایده بازگشت به میان مردم سخن می‌گوید. بازگشت به جامعه‌ای دور از آگاهی و تلاش برای آری گویی به زندگی و مواجهه با چهره‌ی زشت انسانی و حرکتی به سمت ابرانسان. ولف خواهان استقلال و فردیت است. او از فضای شخصی سخن میگوید بی‌آنکه از خطرات اتمیزه کردن جامعه زنان چیزی گفته باشد. جامعه‌ای که در گذر قرون و هزاره‌ها، قدرت خود را نه از انزوا و فردگرایی، بلکه از اجتماعات و محافل زنانه بدست آورده است. نکته قابل تامل آنجاست که ولف این کلمات را نه در اتاق شخصی خود بلکه به صورت سخنرانی در میان زنان به رشته تحریر درآورده است. ازین منظر، رهنمودهای ولف می‌تواند خطرناک و گمراه‌کننده نیز باشد.

آنچه ولف از آن سخن می‌گوید، خوش‌باوری آمیخته با امید به آینده است. ولف از امکانات و شرایط و پتانسیل‌هایی سخن گفته که جامعه زورسالار مدرن، سالهاست خود را به آن واکسینه کرده است. اهمیت این اثر بیش از آن که در ماهیت و محتوای آن باشد، در تاریخی بودن آن است. نخستین شعله آتشی است که هم میتواند گرما بخش باشد و هم ویرانگر. نثر زیبا و روان ولف و شیوه‌ی زبانی او نوین و قابل توجه است. در مجموع، کتاب مهمی است که خواندنش لازم است.
Profile Image for Miss Ravi.
Author 1 book1,007 followers
November 7, 2021
این‌که زن‌ها حق خودشان را داشته‌ باشند و همان اندازه از دنیا بهره‌مند شوند که مردها، و بتوانند بین زندگی راکد و علایق‌شان، حق انتخاب داشته باشند هیچ ربطی به فمینیسم ندارد. چرا کیفیت زندگی یک زن باید کم‌تر از یک مرد باشد؟ عجیب نیست که با گذشت سال‌ها از زمانی که ویرجینیا وولف این کتاب را نوشته (۱۹۲۸م) هنوز مردهایی هستند که به زن‌ها می‌گویند: شما بهتر است بروید سبزی‌تان را پاک کنید و در این موضوعات دخالت نکنید! مردهایی هستند که با تغییر خلقیات زن‌ها در دوران قاعدگی‌شان جوک می‌سازند. هنوز خانواده‌هایی هستند که از داشتن پسر آن‌چنان خوشحال و از داشتن دختر آن‌چنان مغموم می‌شوند که انگار آن پسر قرار است دنیا را زیر و رو کند و منجی کل جهان باشد! مردها چه از نوع کوچه‌بازاری و چه از نوع مثلاً فرهیخته گاهی متوجه نیستند موضوع حرف‌های تمسخرآمیزشان موجودی است دارای هویت و مستقل و برخوردار از همان میزان هوشی که در نوع انسان وجود دارد. موجودیت انسانی زن‌ها به سادگی زیر سؤال می‌رود، با شوخی و خنده. حالا اگر همین زن بخواهد نوشتن را انتخاب کند، بهش می‌گویند که: «ولی پسرها خیلی بهتر از دخترها می‌نویسند». این حرف را از زبان زنی شنیدم که سال‌ها می‌نوشت اما ترجیح می‌داد اغلب نوشتن را فدای چیزی کند که حتی وظیفه‌اش نبود. گاهی ما انتخاب می‌کنیم که منفعل باشیم و وابسته. انتخاب می‌کنیم که انتخاب نکنیم که تصمیم نگیریم و همه‌چیز به عهده دیگران باشد. پدر یا شوهرمان و ما فقط براساس تصمیمات آن‌ها کاری را انجام بدهیم یا ندهیم. این همان چیزی است که دنیای مردسالار دوست دارد.
حالا یاد حرف‌هایی افتادم که یک نویسنده در جشن رونمایی کتابش به من گفت. همسرش شاعر بود و به من می‌گفت که مردها عادت‌های عجیبی د��رند، مردهای شاعر نیاز دارند که آرامش داشته باشند و ما زن‌ها باید کمک کنیم آرامش‌شان بهم نخورد. مهم نیست خودمان کجا و چطور بنویسیم، مهم نیست چقدر وقت کم بیاوریم و مجبور شویم خودمان را بین شاغل بودن، مسئولیت‌های خانه، بچه‌داری و نوشتن تکه‌پاره کنیم و به همه‌شان برسیم، مهم این است که مراقب مردهایمان باشیم. مردها حساس‌اند، مردها حوصله‌ی سروکله زدن با بچه را ندارند. مردها از سرکار که می‌آیند خسته‌اند و باید استراحت کنند. حرف‌هایش باعث شوکه‌ام شد. پس مرد، آن مرد شاعر، کجای این شلوغی‌ها و سازگار شدن‌ها قرار داشت؟ او توی اتاقش بود و داشت با آرامش خیال می‌نوشت.
با همه این واقعیت‌های حاضر و گزنده، سوی دیگری هم وجود دارد. من‌هم مثل ویرجینیا وولف امیدوارم چون با همه‌ی تنگناها و محدودیت‌ها که براساس جغرافیا و فرهنگ‌مان کم و زیاد می‌شوند، مردها و زن‌ها دارند فاصله‌ها را برمی‌دارند. البته بعضی از مردها. مردهایی که از شلختگی خانه شکایت نمی‌کنند وقتی همسرشان در حال جدال با طرح رمانش است و بی‌منت تعادل زندگی را برقرار می‌کنند. زن‌ها و مردها دست به‌ کار شده‌اند، تعاریف و وظایف را عوض کرده‌اند و بعضی مرزهای بیهوده را برداشته‌اند تا به زمانه نشان بدهند دائماً یکسان نباشد حال دوران، غم مخور. و این یعنی آگاه شدن.
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