A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on the 24th of October, 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled Women and Fiction, and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.
Classics are either loved or hated with only a few rare souls who find them just okay. I read A Room of One’s Own in my first year of university in a women and literature course. I disliked it. Immensely. So, after finding a cheap copy at my local bookstore I decided to revisit it to see if my feelings changed. Spoiler alert: they did!
Virginia Woolf is an incredibly talented writer. Her prose is gorgeous. She’s able to paint a vivid image of the point she’s articulating with clarity even when it’s an abstract concept.
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt, that can be set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Woolf leads the charge in demanding more for women. She’s concise in her arguments, pragmatic in her demands, and articulate in her explanations. This may have been first published in 1929, but it’s still relevant today. We may have come a long way since 1929, but we still have a ways to go and looking back at Woolf’s work is not a bad place to continue the work.
“That a famous library has been cursed by a woman is a matter of complete indifference to a famous library.”
I’m upgrading my previous star rating of two stars to four. Having matured a lot since my first year in university, I definitely see why I disliked it reading it then and why I’ve come to appreciate it now. If you read this a while ago and disliked it, I’d urge you give it another chance. Let Woolf take you on a journey and let your eyes be opened by the world of 1929 and how it still compares to today.
“Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them […]”