“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf (Kindle – originally published 1929)
Despite the date of this post, I finished reading this book on about 3 November.
The premise of this classic, and HSC text I needed to read weeks ago in order to be fully prepared for the marking process, is that Woolf was invited to lecture on the topic of Women and Fiction. Her thesis is that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” The essay cum fiction explores this idea in the character of an imaginary narrator (“call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please—it is not a matter of any importance”) who is in her same position, trying to come to terms with the same topic (yes, you are allowed to judge her, I did).
So, Mary whatever, who is really Virginia, (are you keeping up?) starts her investigation at Oxbridge College, where she reflects on the different educational experiences available to men and women as well as on more material differences in their lives. She then spends a day in the British Library perusing the scholarship on women, all of which was written by men and all of which, she claims, was written in anger. Turning to history, she finds so little data about the everyday lives of women that she decides to reconstruct their existence imaginatively. The figure of Judith Shakespeare is invented, as an example of the tragic fate a highly intelligent woman would have met with under those circumstances. In light of this background, Mary-ginia considers the achievements of the major women novelists of the nineteenth century and reflects on the importance of tradition to an aspiring writer. A survey of the state of literature in the 1920s follows. Woolf closes the essay by imploring her audience of women to take up the tradition that has been so hard come by, and to improve the situation even further for their daughters.
I found it ridiculously hard going and then never marked a single paper on it… most frustrating. Nevertheless, more readable than “Letters to Alice”. Bloody Fay Weldon.
At last I am free to get back to J K Rowling’s book which was half-read over a month ago…