A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

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 nonfiction. 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.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and I think, But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison-house, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul.

This incredible essay about women and literature is my first read for Nonfiction Reader Challenge. I’ve never read anything by Virginia Woolf before; after this, I’m going to read everything she wrote.

She writes things I feel but don’t know how to express; one of my favorite things about reading is when the writer makes my own thoughts clearer to me. Among other things, she talks about how difficult it is to find out details of women’s lives in history. Women didn’t write nearly as much as men, they definitely didn’t write about their own lives as much as men did. Today we live in the age of sharing and oversharing; as extreme as that can get, it’s good to know that so many women today have the power to write down their thoughts and share them with the world. I’m glad we have the technology that made this possible, even though it has its price.

Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.

I don’t know what more to write about this book. I finished it a couple of hours ago and my thoughts are everywhere but I felt like writing something now. I think I’ll read it again in a little while. I think I’ll read it again many more times.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.

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