Reading With Posh – Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own"
I would like to talk more about books here on the blog since recently I have gotten a reading bug and have been really inspired to read some old classics. I actually just ordered Jane Austen's "Pride And Prejudice" as well as "Sense And Sensibility" so perhaps the next episodes are going to be about them. But mostly, why I wanted to talk about books more is because I find they're fantastic sources of inspiration, offer so much food for thought and I generally just enjoy discoursing and analyzing them.
Therefore, why not share my thoughts with you here in case some of you would also like to read them or have discussions about them. So I guess, in a way this is a mini book club for me and hopefully for you as well if you wish to take part. Needless to say, don't hesitate to comment and share your experiences, opinions and views on the book under discussion. We all would love to hear from you.
A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN BY VIRGINIA WOOLF –
The One That Made Me Realize The Value Of Your Own Space
Virginia Woolf is a name I heard often during the last six months. The name was mentioned in a series on Netflix that I happened to be watching. Then during summer holidays I saw a film, Hours, that was based on Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway and while I was reading a book called "Jane Austen -book club" a review from Viginia Woolf on Austen's novels was included in the very last pages of the book. Yet in another book about Sei Shonagon called "Things that makes the heart beat faster" author Mia Kankimäki also mentioned Virginia whose words encouraged her to continue writing her book about Sei.
So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for the ages or only for hours, nobody can say.
–A Room of One’s Own
Therefore, after bumping nonstop into to the name I pretty much was sold to the idea of Virgina Woolf: the writer, the feminist, the woman who gave reviews on Austen's novels and after decades from her time encouraged another woman to write. Basically, there was no way I was going to pass Virginia. Needless to say, I immediately started scrolling Adlibris trying to deside what book from Woolf I should read first and finally came to conclusion that if I was ever going to read anything from Woolf it had to be the feminist classic "A Room of One's Own" that is based on two lectures Virginia gave at Newnham College and Girston College in 1928 on the subject of "Women And Fiction".
In the book Virginia touches numerous topics that women and women writers face in the modern society and have faced in history. Basically, she argues through some question that her lecture topic raised in her: Why the other gender is so much more wealthier than the other? How poverty affects literature? What conditions are necessary in creating art? All of which led to one simple answer "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction".
In particular, the topic of wealth stuck with me. The unfair fact that if anyone in the old days and for the most part of today wanted to create art they would need money to succeed in it. Because money creates time to wonder, freedom to go and to not to go, space, power and independence. Because money frees the body from ordinary work. And, especially, for women money releases from the traditionally artistically limiting constitution of marrige as well as gives a possibility to receive education. In other words, if you're a woman it is possibly dangerous to underestimate and overlook the matters of finance.
Having said that I must confess that hearing this from Virginia felt a bit cold, shallow even. Maybe I was expecting more poetic approach but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Since this world is based on money and everything takes money it would only make sense that artistic liberty, even success requires money in some sense of the word at least. And in case of the less wealthier gender money seemed to be a key to the world. In fact, Virginia uses herself as an example. Namely, Virginia Woolf gets 500 pounds a month for the whole of her life which means she is: one released from the burden of providing herself, two can choose a love marrige oppose to business decision, three is exposed to unlimited amount of time and four is free to go as she pleases. Shortly, she lives a life previously only possible for males. And for these facts only the importance of money for a woman is more apparent than ever.
Women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely but from the begining of time... Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and room of one's own."
– A Room of One's Own
But what about "the room" that is perhaps one of the most important words in this book. Well, when you have managed to get enough money for a room of your own writing is going to be so much easier. This means creative space where you aren't interrupted night and day. Simple and effective but alongside with money impossible for the women in history and, at the same time, the answer to why there has been only few to none women authors let alone poets up until the 18th century.
This brings me to the next interesting factor I picked up from Virginia. Namely, why most books that are writen by women are novels not poetry. I was amazed to hear Virginia explain that, once again, this is for the lack of time and privacy, since to write poems you need space, time and silence. All of which women hadn't had too much access to. But novels, those women were able to write with less time, less private space and less consentration. What's more, why the earliest novels women wrote were based on describing ordinary life, feelings and power dynamics in friendships and romantic relationships alike was, yet again, for the lack of privacy. Seen as for centuries, public drawing rooms were the only education women received, becoming master translators of feelings and gestures was inevitable. To prove this you only have to look at Austen who apparently wrote her novels not in a private study but in a public living room.
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. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in the drawing room. A scene in a battlefield is more important than a scene in a shop—everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists.
– A Room of One’s Own
So, now having read " A Room of One's Own" I realize how new money is to women. How recent women authors are and how necessary it is to demand your own space in the world where women hadn't had any. You never know what magic you might end up creating. After all, it is quite remarkable what money and a room of one's own can do for a woman. I certainly feel even lukcier to have a whole appartment to myself let alone this blog! I mean, isn't it quite extraordinary as woman to be able to talk what ever she feels important on her very own blog. And while there's so much more to discourse about this book I only tried to include the topics I felt were the most enlighting for myself while staying in the core of the subject. That being said feel free to raise other topics in the comments as well.
Lastly, let's finish this post with my favorite quote from "A Room of One's Own":
"Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."
– A Room of One's Own
Have your read "A Room Of One's Own"?
If you have, how you found it?
What other books you have read from Woolf?
Thank you so much for reading!