Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
Published 1929

A Room of One's Own is like reading a sliver of one of the world's complex literary minds.  I say a sliver because the book is quite thin, and complex because it is not without deep contemplation (common for Woolf), on the subject of women writing fiction, or writing in general.

This essay was given as a series of lectures at women's colleges, and was later published in book form.  Woolf was concerned with the art of writing, and why women may not have been able to be serious contributors (at her time - post WWI) to literature.

Woolf presented several problems for women that may have prevented them from writing.  Women were poor, mainly because they had children instead of outside work.  They were also married young and, with so many children, never had any privacy.  (I can attest to that.) Women were also more likely than men to miss out on educational opportunities.  Money and a room of her own would have provided women with occasions to be contemplative and creative.  The female voice, the reality of women's thoughts, was absent from the literary world.  She hoped to encourage and witness that change one day.

She wrote,
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 yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.  For I am by no means confining you to fiction.  If you would please - and there are thousands like me - you would write books of travel and adventure, and research and scholarship, and history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science.  By so doing you will certainly profit the art of fiction.  For books have a way of influencing each other.
While much has changed for women since Woolf gave her lectures,  A Room of One's Own should still be read.  A woman may have her own financial means and even a private room in her home, but she may need to be encouraged to write and find her voice.

A Room of One's Own resonated well with me.  If you opened my copy, you would observe plenty of underlinings, stars, and words of affirmation.  I thought it was wonderful.  Furthermore, I think I enjoyed it more so because I listened to an audio version (read by a woman with a British accent), while I followed along in my book.  It added emotion to the context, and I felt like Woolf was reading it privately to me.


Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I read this during my last year of college, and my adviser was disappointed I didn't incorporate it more into my final paper, but it didn't emotionally resonate with me, either as a woman or as a writer. I understood it, I knew why it had been and continued to be important, but that's different.

However, a few years later, I read A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and it impacted me the way I think my adviser wanted "A Room of Ones Own" to. I wish I'd read it in college.

Ruth said...

I'm telling you, if I had to read this in college, I would have not reacted to this book - certainly not as I did here. But as a mother, I DID because I have felt this way, in part. Not that I want to be a writer, but I know what it is not to have peace, to formulate a thought, to have time for one's self. It's completely gone, and that can be personally stifling. I know it is part of the sacrifice to being a mother and a wife, but the struggle is still present. So I appreciate some of Woolf's argument. I get it . . . now.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Yes, it is a constant struggle. I get less sleep than I should because, once the kids are in bed, I can have an hour or two of peace and quiet, and I need that.