A Room Of One's Own
A room of one's own
Authors : Woolf, Virginia
Abstract by: benoyjacob / 600 / 14 December 2006 / Rating: 5
“A Room of One's Own” is a long essay compiled from a seriesof lectures by Virginia Woolf on the topic of Women and Fiction. In thelectures delivered at Newnham Collegeand Girton College,two women's colleges at Cambridge Universityin 1928, she puts up that "a woman must have money and a room of her ownif she is to write fiction." Partfeminist manifesto, part literary theory, “A Room of One's Own” is aboutfeminism, about independence, about writing, about becoming one's own person. The acute satire on the male chauvinism of contemporaryuniversity education also popularised the hybrid ‘Oxbridge’ to signify both theclassical universities- Oxford and Cambridge. Its examination of sexistdiscrimination in society, literature and art formed the foundation of modernfeminist thinking. An imaginary narrator ("call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton,Mary Carmichael or by any name you please—it is not a matter of anyimportance") at Oxbridge College,reflects on the discriminate educational and material experiences tended to menand women.Woolfe paints how the female is hoodwinked by the paradoxesof fiction and real life: "A very queer, composite being emerges.Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completelyinsignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absentfrom history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; infact she was a slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon herfinger." Woolfe creates Judith Shakespeare, a fictional sister to thegreat Bard, to illustrate that a woman with equal gifts would not have accessto the same opportunities because of the doors closed to women. Even when women began writingfiction, they were terribly under the spell of patriarchal notions of virtueand the modest role of women. Thus, Woolf suggests there could have been nofemale Shakespeare in sixteenth century England.She notes of Charlotte Bronte, "she knew, no one better, how enormouslyher genius would have profited if it had not spent itself in solitary visionsover distant fields; if experience and intercourse and travel had been grantedher. But they were not granted, they were withheld." The fullness of the real world can be communicated only bywriters who are great androgynous minds. Shakespeare, Keats, Sterne, Cowper,Lamb, Coleridge, and Proust she places in this category.Examining the careers of several female authors, includingJane Austen, the Brontë sisters and George Eliot, with supreme irony andsarcasm over the male-female power dichotomy she establishes that to be asuccessful writer, a woman needs space in which to work and money backing. The essay ends with an exhortation to women to take up thetradition so hardly bequeathed to them by rare and few women who excelled inwriting, and to increase the endowment for their own daughters.