Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Room of One's Own / Virginia Woolf - short summary

The main subject of A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf is the place of women writers in the history of literature, mainly in the British context. Woolf examines the factors that have hindered women's access to education, literary production and success. One of its main theses of A Room of One's Own, which gave its title to the work, is that a woman must at least have "some money and a room of her own" if she wants to produce a fictional work.

In a style combining evocation, questioning and irony, Virginia Woolf details the material conditions limiting women's access to writing: difficulties for women to travel alone to open their minds, to settle on the terrace of 'a restaurant to take the time to think, to sit on the grass looking for an idea or to access the library of traditional English universities (where they had to be accompanied by a member of the faculty). Woolf dwells on the constraints linked to marriage, the care of children and the household, no longer leaving time for women to devote themselves to writing. To a bishop who declared that it was impossible for a woman to have had in the past, have in the present or in the"It would have been unthinkable for a woman to write Shakespeare's plays in Shakespeare's time" comparing Shakespeare's living conditions with those of his (fictitious) sister.

Even if women wanted to write under these conditions, they had to brave the dominant discourse which made them doubt their abilities and tried to discourage them: "The characteristic of women," said Mr. Greg emphatically, is to be. maintained by man and to be at his service. There was an immense mass of masculine statements tending to show that nothing could be expected, intellectually, from a woman. "

Woolf identifies two essential elements for a woman to write:

have a room of their own that they can lock with a key so that they can write without being disturbed by members of their family;
have an annuity of £ 500  allowing him to live without worries. She recalls in this capacity that women could not own the money they earned, and declares, at the time when women were granted the right to vote: “Of these two things, the vote and the money , money, I confess, seemed to me by far the most important. "
Even though women could have braved all these ordeals and published a book, they would still have to face criticism imbued with “male values”: “Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes 'trivial'. And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. "