Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own is the May selection for the Classic Feminist Literature Challenge I'm participating in this year. Virginia Woolf is another author I've read in excerpt, but have never completed a full work. I'd seen this book quoted in a number of other feminist works, and was looking forward to reading it. I wasn't disappointed! Woolf is, above all, very intelligent, highly articulate, and quite quotable:
"The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself."
Anyway. A Room of One's Own is apparently an expansion of a lecture Woolf once gave about women in literature, in which she argued that it is impossible to say anything true or of substance about women's literature, due to women's ongoing socio-economic and cultural subjection to men. Women, she writes, must have money and a room of their own in order to truly write. Too much of literature written by women had been composed around their domestic duties (think: Jane Austen in the parlor) or in direct opposition to them. Either way, Woolf believes, it revolves too much around men: they're either being catered to or condemned, and in neither case is a woman writer really composing women's literature. In order for that to happen, Woolf argues, a woman must be able to support herself and have her own space.

It's a compelling argument, one that still applies today, in far more realms than just writing. 4 out of 5 stars.

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