lunabee34: (reading by thelastgoodname)
A Room of One's OwnA Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm teaching an excerpt from A Room of One's Own this semester and thought I should read the whole book. Now that I have, I do not like the way The Norton Anthology of Literature by woman excerpts this piece; it contains most of the third chapter but leaves a few pages from the end of the chapter out and then tacks on the last couple pages from the end of the book without any indication where the break happens. The whole book is so short, I don't understand why they don't include the whole of it (especially since so many of the other selections in the book like Rich's "When We Dead Awaken" deal specifically with parts of A Room of One's Own not included in the anthology).

I can see why this book became so important to feminist scholars and writers. It articulates clearly the obstacles that women who want to write have faced over the centuries and offers some solutions. However, I didn't expect Woolf's criticisms of Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot; I was really put off by her assertion that gender ought to be invisible in writing and that when Jane Eyre decries the lot of women or chafes at the role she's been given that Charlotte Bronte is committing some kind of hideous effrontery against writing for having her female character talk/think about issues that real women in the 19th century were dealing with. I'm glad that the women writers who followed her did not feel the same way (and did Woolf even follow this advice in her own writing? It's been almost twenty years since I read Mrs. Dalloway, but I remember it containing some ruminations on the role of women in the early twentieth century). Woolf also thinks that anger has no place in women's writing, a thought her literary descendants thankfully do not share.

Very interesting commentary on education for women and opportunity for women from the time of Shakespeare to the early twentieth century.

I'm teaching this in conjunction with Rich's "When We Dead Awaken" and Walker's "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens;" I would highly recommend reading these together. Rich and Walker acknowledge the debt women's writing owes to Woolf while also criticizing her argument (for example, the way in which A Room of One's Own is entirely bereft of a discussion of race).

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Also read this week: all five introductions to the different time periods represented in the two-volume Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, "When We Dead Awaken," and "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens."

Up next: some Bradstreet and Atwood poems and six academic articles (all of which must be read by end of business Monday); for pleasure, Wilkie Collins's Man and Wife.


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