A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics. Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of the writer, and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom.
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I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
When I began Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929), a fictional essay based on lectures about "women and fiction" that Woolf presented at two Cambridge University women's colleges, I expected to find a well-written proto-feminist tract (if not a "blazing polemic" as the book description on Audible calls it). I did not expect to find a beautiful, funny, stimulating, and readable pleasure. While expressing Woolf's plea that women be accorded the same things that most men have always taken for granted--enough money, privacy, space, and freedom to live and write how they will--her book presents a concise history of (mostly) British literature and a modest account of aesthetic creation, both informed by an accurate and respectful view of the sexes. Although she twice humorously confirms with her audience that no men are hiding in the room, Woolf wrote her book for both men and women. And though much of it is most applicable to the early 20th century, much of it is still relevant to the early 21st.
After introducing her core "opinion," that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction," in the first chapter Woolf talks about visiting "Oxbridge," a fictional hybrid of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. There a Beadle gesticulates her off the grass, protecting the turf of the male Fellows and scholars. There a man tells her that ladies are only admitted to the library in the company of a Fellow or a letter of introduction. There she decides not to attempt to enter the chapel for a service. With sweet-tempered sour grapes, she figures that "the outside of these magnificent buildings is often as beautiful as the inside." She ponders all the gold and silver on which the university was built and is maintained and attends a sumptuous luncheon at a male college and a poor dinner at a woman's college.
Woolf's Oxbridge experience sends her in the second chapter to the British Museum to search its library for answers to questions like, "Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor?" She discovers that all of the many books on women were written by men, many of whom, despite living in patriarchal England, must be angry at women because they suspect that women want to seize their power.
In the third chapter Woolf cites a dead bishop as opining "that it was impossible for any woman, past, present, or to come, to have the genius of Shakespeare." This inspires her to speculate on the lives of historically invisible middle-class Elizabethan women and to imagine Shakespeare's sister Judith, whose era prevented her from becoming a playwright and drove her to suicide.
Woolf gives a history of women authors in chapter four, beginning with a couple of "eccentric" 17th-century aristocrats derided for writing poetry, moving to the first middle-class woman to earn a living by her writing, and then comparing the four great 19th-century women novelists, Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, and George Elliot, explaining how difficult it was for them to write in a world in which women had no private rooms and could not own anything.
In Chapter Five, Woolf examines the state of contemporary women's fiction, riffs on the scarcity in past literature of women who are close friends with women, and advises the female author of today to "be truthful" and to write "as a woman who has forgotten that she is a woman, so that her pages were full of that curious sexual quality which comes only when sex is unconscious of itself."
In the sixth chapter Woolf ties together threads from earlier chapters and promotes androgyny ("one must be woman-manly or man-womanly"), for any purely masculine or feminine mind will be sterile and barren. Interestingly, she also thinks that the sexes are too similar and that their differences should be increased. The conclusion to her book is that if women could have 500 pounds per year (enough to live on) and a room of their own (a private space) they may be themselves, write what they wish, and in time bring Shakespeare's sister to life.
Throughout her book Woolf explains interesting observations about literature: WWI replaced the "illusion" of romance with "reality," Charlotte Bronte's situation deformed her genius, "masterpieces are not single and solitary births," some writers (like Shakespeare) are more "incandescent" and "androgynous" than others, and fiction written with integrity (truth) intensifies the reader's experience of the world. And everywhere she writes supernally, whether describing prunes ("stringy as a miser's heart") or sunlight on windows ("The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder"). Placing Woolf's great novels, To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, and Orlando in the context of A Room of One's Own shows that she did write poetic, incandescent, and androgynous fiction illuminated by integrity and experience.
This audiobook version of A Room of One's Own, read to perfection by Juliet Stephenson, whose clear, intelligent, and sympathetic voice enhances Woolf's wry sense of humor, keen insights, beautiful imagery, original metaphors, and flowing sentences, is followed by four short stories by Woolf also read by Stephenson:
--"Monday or Tuesday," in which, "Lazy, indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way," a heron flies above a series of vivid images.
--"The Haunted House," in which a ghostly couple searches a house for buried treasure, "The light in the heart."
--"Kew Gardens," in which an intrepid snail tries to reach its goal as several imperfectly communicating couples walk by beautiful flowers.
--"The New Dress," in which Mabel Waring wretchedly regrets wearing the wrong dress to Mrs. Dalloway's party.
Yes, I will listen again whenever I need inspiration and instruction to move beyond the patriarchy of academia.
'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write'
I cannot deny my fascination with Virginia Woolf ... this book i consider to be one of the best books i have ever read ... a highly recommended one especially for women ... moreover i love the narrator "Juliet Stevenson' i think she is the best ...
Woolf's stream of consciousness. The narrator was supreme.
The narrator, for obvious reasons.
Excellent intonation. Crisp accent. Emotional at the right times, analytical tone at other times...perfect.
The freudian elements of the narrator's observations.
Be patient with Woolf's stream of consciousness. All comments are relevant...think about them!! Ex.:
I love Virginia Woolf's ability to build a scene, or series of scenes, around a metaphor. The book opens in fictional Oxbridge, a conflation of Oxford and Cambridge, where Woolf's (or the narrator's--are they the same person?) journey from an opulent men-only college to the down-at-heel women's college of Fernham perfectly captures societal views towards women and education. The scenes aren't rigid enough to qualify as allegory; rather, they allow the reader to explore the ideas from a number of angles.
Though ostensibly a work of non-fiction, A Room of One's Own is replete with fictional characters, all metaphors or allegories to explore different facets of women and literature, women in literature, and literature by women. She posits a theoretical Judith Shakespeare, for example, sister to the famed playwright, to demonstrate why even a woman with tremendous talent and dedication often cannot succeed as a writer.
I can't recall any of Juliet Stevenson's other work, but I can say that her voice perfectly fits the tone of A Room of One's Own. She lends the material the dignity it deserved, and yet also captures Woolf's occasional whimsical flourishes perfectly.
I'm not even going to attempt to answer this question. For one thing, the audience for such a film would be so tiny that even the most intrepid indie filmmaker would pass it over without a second thought. And while there might be certain scenes or vignettes that would translate beautifully to film, the highly theoretical nature of the book would not work well on screen.
I recently attempted reading Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, her stream-of-consciousness effort in the vein of James Joyce's Ulysses, and found it unpalatable. Modernist literature simply isn't to my taste. Yet I recognized her power as a writer.
A Room of One's Own is one of the finest pieces of non-fiction I've read. I happen to be an aspiring literary critic and also, dare I say this as a man?, a feminist. Yet even forgoing all that, Woolf's powerful prose, and also her ability to temper her words with restraint, is beautiful to read.
rambunctiously soft spoken.
I can not express how much I loved this book , there are no words that do not pale in comparison to the strength,integrity and humor of this delight.
I fell I'm tarnishing the alphabet by writing this review but I need to say that one Juliet Stevenson should read every book she is amazing ,her voice gives such gravity to Virginia wisdom and two the fact that a woman was fighting for her sex's rights back in her day and age makes me proud to be a woman and a feminist . In my time where the word feminism has become something to hide or be ashamed take strength form this book , it will make you scream your a feminist from the roof tops ..
I have finished with you Virginia Woolf, and yet I am undone! What am I to do without your voice narrating to me the plight of an infinitesimal snail sashaying his way across a summer's garden…or the ostentatious way you breathe life into women post the suffrage movement? How am I to dream without you painting, with your words, brushstrokes here and there, here and there…then here! Such vivid colors when the truth, we all know, is rather stark. Yet in these incandescent rainbows lie hidden truths. The deep rooted authenticates that are bound for lack of proper appropriation, or wit, or humor, or intellect, or experience, or example…and yet here you admonish me, a true example. My sister, my brother, my androgynous muse…neither male nor female…just matter, a mind unlocked.
I'd knew Virginia Woolf mainly by reputation and knew I should read her. I was right. She has a message for today's women and despite the time that has passed, it is still relevant. This was a perfect book for listening. The narrator was clear and the book was informative. Listening to it was the perfect way to approach Woolf.
My most memorable phrase is that women need support in order to achieve and that only comes with the ability to earn a living.
So easy and lax to listen to.
I've read Room of One's Own, here and there but listening to this was fantabulous!
In addition, I decided to contrast this audiobook with Alice Walkers, "In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens" narrated by Elizabeth Klett. Listening to both is Wow. A kapow-wow!
"Classic, inspiring & full of quotable quotes"
A Room of One's Own is beautifully read by Juliet Stephenson. Virginia Woolf writes a short but thought provoking book, relevant even today. It if full of quotable quotes, including the iconic one used as the title.
The first half of the book is a slow build up to the inspiring second.
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