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Modernist essay of immense worth....
on 16 November 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'.