A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

I’ve been meaning to read some more Virginia Woolf for a while. I studied her in uni, and recently watched a video about her life. Spoiler: it ended badly.

As an extremely influential and ahead-of-her time author, Woolf has shaped modern writing and playing an important part in feminist literature. A Room of One’s Own is expertly penned – but a warning, this isn’t a nice, easy to read storybook. It’s complicated and rant-ey. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on it:

  • I don’t know what’s going on – is there a character? Are they doing something? I have no idea. At one point she’s at a women’s school, then she’s in a library. I dunno guys, I dunno.
  • Yas gurl, stick it to tha man! Though written nearly a hundred years ago, many of the themes in here are still relevant today. Although, obviously the plight of women was MUCH more prevalent in Woolf’s time. Her thoughts are way ahead of their time, and I’m sure that significant gentlemen of the time weren’t fans of this.
  • This gal knows her stuff! She refers to many literary figures of the past few centuries, imagining how Shakespeare’s metaphorical sister would have fared as a writer in his time, and noting Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and more.

Here are some of my favourite passages:

The middle-class woman began to write… Without those forerunners, Jane Austen and the Brontes and George Eliot could no more have written than Shakespeare could have written without Marlowe, or Marlowe without Chaucer, or Chaucer without those forgotten poets who paved the ways and tamed the natural savagery of the tongue. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.

Bah! I love that! What a notion, that ideas and books are not the works of lone authors, but are shaped by society and a multitude of authors. This will always be the case, I’ve just never heard it so eloquently put.

… give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days.

The book’s namesake – this points out that women have not had the means that men have had to create brilliant books. Oh my dear, 500 pounds would not get us far these days, though!

Indeed, it was delightful to read a man’s writing again. It was so direct, so straightforward after the writing of women. It indicated such freedom of mind, such liberty of person, such confidence in himself.

Hehe, and she goes on… Clearly, that men have been better writers throughout history because they have been enabled to be so.

It may seem a brutal thing to say, and it is a sad thing to say: but, as a matter of hard fact, the theory that poetical genius bloweth where it listeth, and equally in poor and rich, holds little truth.

Woolf lists a bunch of amazing authors, most of which have attended university, and ‘procured the means to get the best education England can give’. This point is still sadly relevant, as it’s obvious that those with lesser means (not just women) can’t access good education and experience the same advantages that others can.

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