A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf is an inspiring and gorgeous write based on an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. It is based on two lectures which Woolf gave to the Newnham Arts Society at Newnham College and the ODTAA Society at Girton College. She was speaking on the theme of ‘Women and Fiction’.
Instantly I knew that I would probably like this book. Being a feminist and a writer, it was definitely something I knew would interest me greatly. And after reading it, I found it very interesting and influential really. I believe a lot in equality in class issues as well and Woolf speaks a lot about class issues, as well as gender, in this book in relation to what stops a lot of people from getting on in the literary world. I think a lot of what Woolf spoke about has certainly improved. Is it still present? Of course it is and I have to give this woman a lot of credit for speaking so strongly and passionately about issues like this in 1929. She has a wonderful articulate and accessible way of putting things. Very interesting to read.
When she was talking about the research she was doing for the speeches, I could so relate and I thought ‘the poor woman’ and at the same time knew she was having a ball learning so much because learning is kind of cool. (Or so the nerd in me says! :-)) I think she put a lot of work and effort into this and a lot of time and I liked that in her. A hard-working writer she seemed indeed.
Her views on the superiority complexes were incredibly interesting. Woolf was very much ahead of time in a lot of what she was saying and I can imagine it didn’t go down well with everyone but she was definitely not a yes, no, three bags full type of person and I love that quality in her. Her points were direct and honest and I understood so much of what she was attempting to get across. She spoke about how superiority is all about power and fear. How writing is more difficult to break into if you’re a woman especially in those times and how many women were made to feel like writing was not for them in society. Jane Austen used to hide her work, many women pretended to be male writers and a lot of womens’ talents were never recognized because they believed they shouldn’t write or they were deemed to protest too much. She spoke about class and money and how these were barriers to making it in the literary world because a lot of writers were University-educated which didn’t give working-class writers as much chance to be known for writing because they hadn’t as much access to education and the kind of writing which was often popular in those days tended to have a University vibe to it. The barrier in education is also something she speaks about in relation to women too.
It is interesting to read about what she says about society and society’s reactions to what they see as ‘different’ and ‘new’. While things have moved on more in terms of the issues Woolf was discussing in this book, it did feel like a repetitive cycle is happening in many of the same ways with other issues like trans issues, issues with people in the middle with their sexuality, intersex people, people on the Aro or Ace spectrum, polyamorous people, people who don’t use labels, people in open relationships or in relationships with more than one person. The whole ‘pander while I cast judgement on you because what I am is so superior to what you are’ mentality is still very present. You’d think people would have learned from the past. And while many have, quite a lot sadly haven’t either. The issues she is speaking about here of prejudice against women and class prejudice are also still very present with a lot of people.
This book is thought-provoking and brave as hell.
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