A Room of One’s Own
“500 pounds a year and a room of one’s own.”
Virginia Woolf: a British novelist, feminist, essayist, journalist and critic who was born in 1882. She was one of the leaders of the modernist movement. She believed the female mind had to be liberated from the domination of males and the society. She also exposed the idea of the “stream of consciousness”. Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in a river in 1941 when she was 59 years old.
Stream of consciousness: a literary technique which seeks to describe an individual’s point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character’s thought processes.
A Room of One’s Own: An extended essay discussing women’s capability of producing good work.
A. [Shakespeare’s Sister]
1. Woolf uses a sarcastic tone throughout her essay.
2. Judith would have had a miserable life, in comparison to Shakespeare’s. She would have been forced into an early marriage, perhaps placated by a chain of beads; her wish to enter the theatre would have been rejected, and her talent would eventually die out. In other words, her life would not amount to half the worth of her brother’s.
3. Woolf insists that there must have been intelligent women at the time, women like Jane Austen and Emily Brontë, but their genius was not given the chance to flourish.
B. [Chloe Liked Olivia]
1. Woolf frowns upon older writers for not bringing the subject of homosexuality into the light. To her mind, women were only seen “in relation to the other sex”, but women’s relationships with other women are more complicated and more interesting.
2. She asks her readers to imagine what would happen if men “were only represented in literature as lovers of women, and were never friends of men.” Quite a number of Shakespeare’s well-known heroes, like Hamlet and Lear, would not be there if this were so.
3. Literature is impoverished because of the neglect of women’s issues- women have been “so terribly accustomed to concealment and suppression.”
1. Androgyny is a term used by Coleridge to define a “great mind”. It is more creative than a single-sexed mind due to its “undivided” nature.
2. Virginia Woolf attempts to “sketch a plan of the soul, so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female.”
3. An androgynous mind does not have to be sympathetic with women, it is rather a mind that works in the favour of both sexes; it is part male, and part female.
4. In order to be able to write suitably, a writer must be either “woman-manly”, or “man-womanly.”
5. “The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually cooperating.”
6. Both sexes have to be in touch with their opposite side, and avoid being “single-sexed”.
7. Mr A’s piece of writing was too shallow due to the repetitiveness of “I”, and his male character was too dominative, which bored Woolf greatly; he writes with only the male side of his brain.
8. Female writing has been less successful because:
a. Women’s works are based on angry responses to male literature that condemn them, which is “fatal”.
b. Also, due to the lack of privacy they receive whilst writing; “there must be freedom and there must be peace.”
c. Most novels “celebrate male virtues, enforce male values and describe the world of men.” This way the novel speaks to only one side of the audience, thus, they do not “penetrate within” women.
9. Woolf blames both sexes for this failure; “all who have brought about a state of sex-consciousness are to blame.” Amongst them are: Milton, Jonson, Wordsworth, and Tolstoi.
10. Androgynous writers: Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, and Shelley.
Shahd Al Shemmari, Yasmine Gad, Zainab Al-Naqi