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A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Pages 5 (1255 words)
In A Room of One's Own (1929), Virginia Woolf establishes, in a blend of essay and fiction, what has become equally a fine literary work and a seminal work of feminist criticism. The occasion that serves as a framing device for her discourse has the speaker honoring a request to address the graduating class of a women's college in 1928…
. . a respectful allusion to George Elliot. But at second sight the words seemed not so simple. The title women and fiction might mean, and you may have meant it to mean, women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together and you want me to consider them in that light. But when I began to consider the subject in this last way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion." In the voice of Mary Seton, Woolf goes on to lament that she can offer no refined nugget of wisdom for the students to "wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece forever" (Leaska 169-170).
On the first of these accounts, a great difficulty, for Woolf, arises in even knowing about women and what they are like. In her narrator's trip to the British Museum Library to find out, a pivotal discovery is that nearly everything written about women has been written by men. Besides the dry anthropological accounts that might give someone a
sense of the puberty rituals of south sea islanders, everything in the library is highly slanted and derogatory. ...
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