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'A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write'
'Virginia Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of writers and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom'
*Synopsis taken from 'A Room of One's Own' written by Virginia Woolf and published by Penguin Publishers: Great Ideas in 2004*
First published in 1928 Woolf's "A Room of One's Own' is the story of the age-old struggle for women to reach and attain an equal social and intellectual standing to their male counterparts. Woolf's novel, although commonly regarded as such is in fact not; 'A Room of One's Own' is based upon two extended essay papers, written by Woolf to be delivered to attendees of two women's colleges at Cambridge in October 1928 regarding women and their ability or apparent inability to write due to the disenfranchised standing of intelligent females throughout history and the masculinised nature of the English language. While Woolf's extended essay employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women as writers and fictional characters, the original essay manuscript for the lecture series entitled "Women and Fiction" is academically regarded as a non-fiction work thus the essay/novel is also considered as such.
When reading the novel look out for:
*Historical interpretations of Oxbridge colleges, comparatively the male and female colleges.
*Shakespeare's unacknowledged 'imaginary' sister Judith...or is she imaginary? Would we actually know if Shakespeare had a sister???
*The increasing mention of famous female writers from history and Woolf's account of their struggles to find the ability to write
*And lastly and perhaps most notably, Woolf's famed writing of the basic requirements of being able to write; throughout history children, husbands and domestic responsibilities have restricted female writers for fulfilling their writing potential.
Although I myself am not much of a fan of Woolf's work; sorry I find it rather dull, a little bit whiny and pretentious (I feel awful for saying this about such a notable and respected female author but it's my true opinion) I quite enjoyed reading this particular novel/essay. Unlike other examples of Woolf's work there are some incredibly clever and imaginative sections, which ring very true to patriarchal history. Similarly whilst I was reading I found myself repeatedly proclaiming: 'Wow that really is a fantastic point'; one particular section I found most interesting and thought-provoking was Judith Shakespeare's introduction to the novel. Being an avid fan of Shakespeare i found Woolf's points regarding his little, possibly imaginary, sister to be really intelligently done and highly possible. As I said earlier would we have ever known if Shakespeare had a sister even if she was as 'equally gifted' and talented as Shakespeare himself. It is a sad fact that most probably Woolf is right and if Judith had existed she would have been shepherded into a woman's life tending to children and a husband and ultimately denied of any education and discouraged from pursuing a writing career.
Ultimately I consider 'A Room of One's Own' to be one of Woolf's best works and would advise anyone, whether you have or have not read anything of hers before to give it a go. Although the story behind the novel/essay is not full-on thrilling action/adventure it is the points Woolf makes and the intelligent thinking behind the novel that makes it a challenging, enjoyable and very provoking read and at fewer than 150 pages it's well worth the little time it takes to look through it.
PS. Although I find Woolf's novel/essay a provoking and interesting read I find it formally relevant only to the past. Although it is a relevant read today I do not believe that todays women have the inability to write due to the disenfranchisement Woolf discusses in this book. : )