Monday, September 6, 2010

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own is an extended essay. However, I saw it as a bunch of different stories tied together.

At one point Woolf talks about the limitations of women when it comes to writing. 'A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.' She says how there are virtually no female writers in the 16th century due to this. She then travels forward through the centuries bringing to the surface the progress of women writers. Such as Lady Winchilsea, Margaret Cavendish, Dorothy Osborne and Aphra Behn. She talks about how the limitations of women during their times affect each of their works. Winchilsea especially would write about her frustrations and how women weren't taken seriously as writers.

Woolf then makes up a fictional character to make this point: Judith Shakespeare, a fictional sister of William Shakespeare. She uses this imaginative sister to prove that if a woman had Shakespeare's same talents, she would not come anywhere close to having the same opportunities due to her sex.

There are other points, of course, but the ones I mentioned in the last two paragraphs are the ones that particularly struck me and have stayed with me.

I've always felt more drawn to women writers, but A Room of One's Own gives me an entirely new perspective. While I read works by the great women writers of history - I appreciated the work - I never thought of the real struggles, how many walls they had to break down. How even as a published and successful author, they were still not taken seriously.

The main thing I've taken from reading this is to do more exploring into the history of women writers, all the writers that have been overlooked and buried by history. It's time to bring them back to the surface.