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A Room of One's Own (Penguin Modern Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Virginia Woolf
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Feb 2002 Penguin Modern Classics

Collecting two book-length essays, A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas is Virginia Woolf's most powerful feminist writing, justifying the need for women to possess intellectual freedom and financial independence. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Michele Barrett.

A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College, Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics, ranging in its themes from Jane Austen and Carlotte Brontë to the silent fate of Shakespeare's gifted (imaginary) sister and the effects of poverty and sexual constraint on female creativity.

Three Guineas was published almost a decade later and breaks new ground in its discussion of men, militarism and women's attitudes towards war. These two pieces reveal Virginia Woolf's fiery spirit and sophisticated wit, and confirm her status as a highly inspirational essayist.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is regarded as a major 20th century author and essayist, a key figure in literary history as a feminist and modernist, and the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay.

If you enjoyed A Room of One's Own, you might like Woolf's Orlando, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Probably the most influential piece of non-fictional writing by a woman in this century'

Hermione Lee, Financial Times

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A Room of One's Own (Penguin Modern Classics) + Penguin Great Ideas: A Vindication of the Rights Of Woman + The Second Sex (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141183535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141183534
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


* Praise for the reader Juliet Stevenson's narration is perfect The Oldie - on A Room with a View --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Book Description

Cambridge Literature is a series of literary texts edited for study by students aged 14–18 in English-speaking classrooms. It will include novels, poetry, short stories, essays, travel-writing and other non-fiction. The series will be extensive and open-ended and will provide school students with a range of edited texts taken from a wide geographical spread. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction - what has that got to do with a room of one's own ? I will try to explain. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modernist essay of immense worth.... 16 Nov 2005
I admit that as a younger student I found Woolf rather dull and distasteful. There was something so inaccessible and over-done about her writing. However, I came to understand my own ignorance and come to a love of Woolf by seeing her as a poet, as a thinker, and not as a novelist. It is true that her writing is complex, erudite and ambiguous but that is its charm, its enigmatic charm - and A Room of One's Own is no exception.
This is not a novel but rather a set of essays given to an audience of young cambridge girl students. The book opens with the wonderful premise 'A Woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction'. Thus, we are made to understand immediately the crux of the book; that intellectual freedom depends upon material things and that for women to create works comparable to Shakespeare's tragedies she must have a sense of autonomy.
Woolf proceeds to take us on a witty journey through the history of women and literature to explain why the female sex has always been limited. She concots, for sake of argument, the figure of Shakespeare's sister, who like her elder brother had a talent for theatre and creation of art. Due to her sex she is limited and ends up leading a frustrated life and ultimately killing herself. Woolf ends the book by calling her audience to write, to write widely and by doing so to emancipate Shakespeare's sister and show the men that women aren't their social, physical and mental inferiors.
One could say this is the start of feminist criticism, indeed with the book being published in the year of the acquisition of female suffrage the context would seem awfully auspicious. The book follows Woolf's ideoysncratic modernist style, pursuing the 'stream of thought' format.
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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Invigorating 16 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Asked originally to deliver a talk on Women and Fiction in 1928, Virginia Woolf eventually produced this longer essay which expands its subject to cover education, marriage, property and money. She moves backwards through literary history, examining the women who have written, often against great opposition, and the female characters that have been written, mostly by men, and finds a startling anomaly: "Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant."
Unlike many feminist authors, Woolf does not argue for tearing down the achievements of male authors. In fact she argues that both sexes should write androgynously, in order to find the proper reality of things, but at its heart it is a feminist essay. At the time Woolf was writing women had been granted many more freedoms than their mothers, but still had a lot to fight for, and she urges women to do so, albeit for the realm of intellectual freedom and the pleasure of writing for a living. (I have no doubt she would do the same today, despite all our apparent advances.)
She knew she was one of the fortunate (she was left five hundred pounds a year by her aunt, giving her economic independence) and she famously concludes that a women must have a room of her own and money of her own in order to write. But why? It is not so that there are idle hours to be filled by writing - it is because writing well and truthfully can only be properly achieved when a woman is not railing against the bounds of poverty, dependence, social exclusion and disapproval.
The essay is, however, also art.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
'A Room of One's Own' is an extremely readable essay. It's a delightful read and the classification of it as an 'essay' should not put anyone off as it is as entertaining as any of Woolf's prose. Once I started reading it I could not stop. Woolf flirts with you through her narrative, drawing you in to her thought processes, enticing you to follow her narrator on a journey of the mind as she wanders about 'Oxbridge' and London. Woolf demonstrates great insight, forseeing the future for women and their involvement in the arts with great accuracy. Through her narrative she also introduces a new discourse, one that she encourages other women to take up in order to free themselves from the masculine domination of literature. Inspirational.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare's sister lives on! 10 Mar 2011
A life changing work, remarkable in its clarity and poignance without being self pitying and ultra feminist to a sexist degree. Virginia Woolf speaks honestly about her time and gender and does so in such a remarkable way that within the 115 odd pages of this essay she has given more insight than hundreds of biographical studies on sexism in the 20th century ever could.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and eye-opening about its times (1920s) 9 April 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I found this an enjoyable read; a bit rambling and idiosyncratic, but not the worse for it, as the writer's personality comes across well, which is one of the things she says in the book is important to her as a writer - that one should be oneself. That in itself is a good message, and, though it is a "feminist" book, I like that fact that she did not resort to male-bashing or treating all women as paragons, and liked her theory that many fine minds, whether male or female are actually quite androgynous and not limited by preconceptions of what a male or female should be like.

Her main premise, that in the past not many women wrote due to prosaic reasons like having no private room to do it in, and her discussions in general about the lives of women in earlier centuries, are thought-provoking (and I discovered where the phrase Shakespeare's Sister comes from).

Her theory that the best writing comes when the person is self-confident and secure and has no particular chips on their shoulder is interesting, though maybe it could be debated - could it not also be said that some great art has come from people who had suffered a lot (Woolf herself, had traumatic periods of depression and a tragic death) and also from people who wanted to prove some point or other? But I see where she is coming from, that there are certain works of great art that are just beautiful and satisfying in themselves with no particular sense that the author is trying to make some point or express their angst with the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Found this alittle hard to read and understand at first, but once I got into it I found the book to be very interesting to read. Again another book for my University course.
Published 2 months ago by Honeybun
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and challenging
What can I say? An inspiring, challenging, confidence building lecture by a truly great woman writer. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Martine Bailey
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but hard going
Was needed for the modernism semester, can say I found it easy to get through, found myself doing a lot of stopping and starting but is a good piece to get a bit more in touch with... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Angela Dubnyckyj
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and Beautifully Written
I think "A Room of One's Own" may have just cemented Virginia Woolf's place as one of my favourite authors. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Female Scriblerian
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Not an easy read, one that requires concentration and time but very empowering and informative. Her style of writing and the messages she puts forward are intricate and complex but... Read more
Published 10 months ago by sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
Good book.
Takes some reading to understand.
It is interesting and dynamic once you get your head around the story
Published 10 months ago by Tomreview
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
I did a module on Virginia Woolf at university. I read Jacob's Room, Orlando, To The Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway and Between The Acts, I also read a lot of general remarks by her, but... Read more
Published 12 months ago by R. A. Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential
Every girl/woman must read this. I first read it while at university many years ago, and it is as relevant now as it was then. Thoroughly recommend it.
Published 13 months ago by sangeeta solanki
5.0 out of 5 stars a room of ones own
will get round to reading this great book as soon as i have read my other good books plenty to read
Published 14 months ago by alan john cole
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I gave this book to a friend and never got it back, so I bought another copy for myself. I love this book. Read more
Published 15 months ago by J. Gormley
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