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76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Invigorating
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,...
Published on 16 Mar 2003

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Format poorness rivals Woolf's brilliance
An incredibly lazy job of editing and frustratingly unreadable format cost me 77p. When I purchase a classic that I could read for free elsewhere, I really prefer that the majority of words are intact, not cut off at the end of every other line and chunks of text occasionally skipped altogether. Furthermore, unlike most kindle texts, I was unable to scroll through the...
Published 23 months ago by Quaeon


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76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Invigorating, 16 Mar 2003
By A Customer
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. Unlike a dry academic paper it skips lightly and often with humour from subject to observation, and demonstrates with her usual deftness how the real world produces new trains of thought in a person, just as a person's thoughts can mean interpreting the world in a new way. The very construction of the essay is an example of the work she is promoting, to attempt "to live in the presence of reality, an invigorating life." Because of this, and the sheer energy of the writing, it is a work that deserves a reading, no matter what your sex or station or ambition. And if you are a woman intending to write, be it a novel, travelogue or PHD you really ought to give up a couple of hours to read this; you are almost certainly guaranteed a new enthusiasm for your task.
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31 of 31 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. For any aspiring writer, for any historian, for any student, for anyone, i implore you to read this book. In this day of comparable equality of sex this divine rumination could be applied to writers of ethnic minorities and even writers of different sexual orientation. In order to create art one must have intellectual freedom; 'a room of one's own and money in one's pocket'.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful essay, demonstrating fantastic cultural insight., 5 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Room of One's Own (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
'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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5 of 5 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
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.

One thing that mildly irritated me though was her ideal that to write well one should really try to arrange to have a nice independent income so as to not have any financial worries and not have to answer to a boss at work etc, but just be able to dream and ponder and travel and express oneself etc. We can't all be as fortunate as her to have rich aunts who leave us lots of money, and though she points out that women in her day now had possibilities of making money through different kinds of work, it would be a rare one who was able to find something that allowed for the kind of liberty she holds up as the ideal for writing creatively.

In passing, I was interested by some of the insights into the time, such as how from the end of the war she says women had had the chance to go into almost all the professions - and some people these days seem to think the emancipation of women started in about the 60s or something.. also that the word "feminist" was already used (though it seems it was a bit negative - used for people who were thought a bit strident about women's rights), and , how, for example the First World War was then known as The European War.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Format poorness rivals Woolf's brilliance, 5 May 2012
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An incredibly lazy job of editing and frustratingly unreadable format cost me 77p. When I purchase a classic that I could read for free elsewhere, I really prefer that the majority of words are intact, not cut off at the end of every other line and chunks of text occasionally skipped altogether. Furthermore, unlike most kindle texts, I was unable to scroll through the text to highlight/use the dictionary etc. POOR. Yes, we're in a recession yet it's much more for the principle than the financial stretch of the 77p that I urge you to buy another edition.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and inspiring., 4 Dec 2004
By 
Mrs. J. A. Collins (Hertfordshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book has so much more to offer than simply a treatise on the feminist needs of creative women (although this is a very important topic, and as relevant now as when Woolf wrote her essays); it also offers excellent advice on the art of writing well, and the need for a good writer to resist the urge to use their craft as a stage from which to proclaim their views. I already know this book will have a profound effect on my own writing, and for that alone it thoroughly deserves five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular!, 1 Oct 2011
Woolf's ideas are timeless, and I would recommend this essay to readers of any Woolf novel. Mrs. Dalloway (Wordsworth Classics) and To the Lighthouse (Wordsworth Classics) may appear inaccessible to unprepared readers, but this little book is very helpful, indeed. (In addition, this edition has such a lovely cover!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 6 Aug 2010
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This is one of my favourite books, bought for several friends as my book club selection for the month. A brilliant feminist essay on the nature and practicality of harnessing creativity within the wider gender based political context. To be re-read at regular intervals, preferably whilst you're drinking tea out of the matching penguin mug!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 500 pounds a year and a room of one's own..., 28 Aug 2012
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
... Woolf states are the pre-requisites for a woman to be a writer - in other words, writers are not necessarily timeless geniuses who rise above their age, but are shaped, supported or repressed by their material, economic, social and cultural conditions.

Written in 1929, Woolf's essay (originally a series of lectures to Newnham and Girton Colleges) is read often today as a foundational document of feminist literary theory. Extremely prescient, it touches on theoretical issues such as female writing, and the representation of women in male-authored texts, thus foreshadowing the work done by French feminists such as Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva. By clearly articulating the relationship between text and material world, and uncovering paradigms of power and self-interest, she also prefigures the influential work of Marxist critics such as Barthes and Foucault.

Given its date of composition, there are points at which Woolf is factually wrong - most pressingly when she talks about the impossibility of female poets during the Renaissance. Later scholarship focusing on Renaissance women poets such as Louise Labe, Veronica Franco, Aemilia Lanyer, Isabella Whitney, Mary Sidney, Mary Wroth et al have uncovered that women certainly did write, circulate and even publish poetry in the sixteenth century, though certainly these processes were never unproblematic.

I particularly like the way in which Woolf offers her essay as an example of how to 'do' theory - she states that she doesn't want her listeners/readers to simply read and accept, but to engage actively, to resist, argue back, extend and re-write her arguments.

The whole is written in a lively, witty, style making it probably one of the most accessible theoretical texts we have from the modern period. So whether you're interested in feminist/gendered literary theory or Woolf, this is a stimulating and spirited read.
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A Room of One's Own (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
A Room of One's Own (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) by Virginia Woolf (Paperback - 31 Oct 1991)
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