Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Modern March: A Room of One's Own

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf

'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.'

Well, what can I say, VW has gone and done it again. What a corker. I'm feeling some serious love for Woolfy right now. My brain has been in overdrive since finishing this. All the thoughts have just been buzzing away in my head like intelligent little flies (umm, weird image).

A Room of One's Own is a short piece of non-fiction that grew out of a lecture Woolf was asked to give in Cambridge in 1928 on the subject 'Women and Fiction'. She argues that a woman needs 'money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction'*.

I think, ignoring the content for a moment, Woolf's writing/lecture style is wonderful. It is by no means dry or heavy going but descriptive and anecdotal. Particularly the discussion of the life of Shakespeare's fictitious sister (she didn't stand a chance). And I loved the discussions about the Bronte's (particularly the discussion of the section in Jane Eyre where Jane considers the stagnation of the female mind when it is not given freedom - a section that has made want to reread the novel), Jane Austen and George Eliot, as well as lesser known (if known at all) female writers.

I'm going to break my own tradition and love of paragraphing here and break into some bullet points. I think it is necessary. These are the points that I found most interesting:
  • The whole issue of gendered writing - is it possible to tell from my sentence structure that I am female? Woolf seems to argue for androgyny of mind because a purely feminine or a purely masculine cannot necessarily create. Apparently we must be woman-manly or man-womanly. Amazing.
  • As a WW1 geek, I obviously love how she tries to explain the change in the post-war world through poetry. Before the war people were surrounded by an unconscious humming of poetry that spoke of rapture and abandonment. Luncheon parties were the same before, during and after the war aside from the loss of that 'humming'. I think that's a wonderful way to explain the changes in people after the First World War.
  • 'Have you any notion of how many books are written about women in the course of one year?'...why, then, does there seem to be no solution to the woman "question" if it's all people (mostly men) have talked about for years. Why is woman such an enigma? I also thought I was pretty cut and dry: short, smiles alot, likes books.
  • 'Most women have no character at all'...oh, is that right, Mr Pope?
  • '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'...doesn't surprise me.
  • 'Of the two - the vote and money - the money, I own, seemed infinitely more important.' Seriously?! And I spent months researching and writing about the importance of the vote for women for you to tell me money is more important *shakes head in disbelief*. 
I would highly recommend anyone giving this a read whether you are of the feminist inclination or not. It is entertaining, informative and an all-round delightful read.

*I am, incidentally, currently writing this in my room of my own. It may not have a lock and I may not be an aspiring novelist but without this room, the desk, the window, the seats, the heater (most important) I would never have gotten through my MA with my sanity intact. It is a room where I am not interrupted, where I can think and write in silence. I think, whether you write fiction or not, it is important to have a room, if only to sit and contemplate all the Deep Thoughts or daily happenings in.



  1. I've been wanting to read this for a long time. I've heard such good things about it. Maybe I'll get it out for Modern March, too...

    1. It really is a very interesting and entertaining read. Not what I was expecting at all. Well, it is Modern March after all, so why not?!

  2. I need to borrow this from you !


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