Publisher: Vintage Classics
My Thoughts: I have so many little post-its stuck in this book. There were so many thought provoking quotes in this book.
The books title comes from the idea that in order for women to be able to write great literature they must have a space of their own to write and the funds available to them to be able to do so. It is an intriguing notion, that the great male authors had their own space and chance to write. She also comments on the historic difference between the space given to men and women to educate themselves and to have space. She shows how women like Jane Austen would write in the family room, without the chance to think in her own space. She claims that this impacts on the type of subject that women write about.
Placing this book in its historical context it is easy to see how this has become such an iconic text in the feminist debate. It manages to show the history of women and writing and how the cultural norms of the different times in certain ways prevented women from writing. I also found her observation that the preoccupation with the inferiority of women was perhaps not so much about believing that women were inferior but a need for men to feel superior. That in order to be superior someone has to be inferior, and thus the inferior “other” is created (fair warning I will probably be talking a lot about the creation of “the other” when we read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir in July, as the creation of “the other” was a large feature of my Masters thesis, and de Beauvoir was one of my sources).
I loved most of the book but I will admit she lost me in the last chapter when she starts talking about the androgynous. I would consider myself a feminist in that I believe that women should have the same opportunities as men, at the same time I recognize that there are certain biological differences that make us, well different. I am also of the opinion that we are what we are and that society shouldn’t constrict our identity creation. I don’t think we have traits that are male or female. I do think that there are certain biological traits that have been overemphasised to the detriment of us all.
Despite the heaviness of the topic Woolf is quite funny in places, especially in the early parts of the essay, and this really increases the readability of the book. In addition she sets the early parts of the narrative in the Oxbridge Collages and having read Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers last year the setting feels familiar and easy to relate to (if you read my review of Gaudy Night you will see that I felt transported to the college).
I think this is a book that is important to read if you are interested in feminism and feminist literary criticism. It touches upon many of the issues I often have with books (I am a product of my education ). It isn’t a long book, once I started reading it didn’t take me long to read. This is my second Woolf, I’ve previously read and enjoyed Mrs Dalloway. I plan on reading more of Woolf.