“But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction—what has that got to do with a room of one’s own? I will try to explain.”
So begins what is widely regarded as the foundation text of feminist literary criticism, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Probably Woolf’s most readable and entertaining book, it was based on papers delivered at Newnham and Girton Colleges—the two women’s colleges at Cambridge University. Never losing sight of her undergraduate audience, Woolf provides a brief history of women’s writing in English, a scathing account of the subtle and not so subtle ways in which women have been discouraged from writing, and a recommendation for how to change matters: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
In the process, Woolf takes on women’s economic disadvantages, the underfunding of women’s education, the discouragement of women from certain kinds of (lucrative) work, the ways in which women are socialized into suspicion of each other, and how women participate in their own systemic oppression. Yet, in spite of these weighty subjects, A Room of One’s Own remains throughout funny, light-hearted, engaging for the novice reader while still offering “nuggets” to the worldy-wise. It is, above and beyond all else, a very model of essay writing.
This Broadview edition provides a reliable text at a very reasonable price. It contains textual notes but no appendices or introduction.