The History Of The Virginia Woolfs English Literature Essay

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In an academic lecture at Cambridge in 1928, Virginia Woolf described her thinking concerning women and science in general, and the challenges facing women writers in particular. Although her lecture reportedly put some attendees to sleep, a careful reading of "A Room of One's Own" helps to identify these challenges from the perspective of someone with real-world experiences. This paper reviews "A Room of One's Own" and uses salient quotations to explain who Woolf is, her values and rights, as well as the author's beliefs and achievements. Finally, a discussion concerning what Woolf can teach modern scholars is provided in the conclusion.

Although the true identity of the author remains unclear, the role of the author of "A Room of One's Own" at the time of its delivery is made clear in Woolf's initial statement that she is a "lecturer" with the goal of providing attendees with "a nugget of pure truth" (1), but beyond this Woolf's identity is cast in terms of different people, providing it with a universal appeal and applicability. The "nugget of pure truth" that would emerge from this discourse concerned the values, rights, beliefs and accomplishments of women in a male-dominated society and these issues are discussed further below.

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Clearly, Woolf places a high value of being sufficiently independent to provide her with the opportunity for the creative muses to have their effect. For instance, in what has become the most important quotation from this work, Woolf proclaims that, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Certainly, these are luxuries that not all women -or men - writers have enjoyed over the years, but Woolf emphasizes the need for these two prerequisites in an "affirmative action" type of argument to underscore the challenges that were faced by women fiction writers in the early 20th century.

In her discourse, Woolf suggested that women had only "earned the right" to even speak their minds and earn a decent living doing it by the early 19th century. For instance, Woolf writes, "All women [owe a debt to] Aphra Behn . . . who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits" (56). That assertion likely created quite a stir among the auditors in attendance (perhaps even waking some of them up), but it also serves to highlight Woolf's overarching belief in her right to assert her equality in the field of literature as well as the equality of all women in a fundamentally inequitable world.

In the heady male-oriented atmosphere of Cambridge at the time, Woolf provides an anecdotal account of her reception at a college library as an illustration of the challenges and roadblocks faced by women writers when she described her encountered with a grizzled but "kindly gentleman, who regretted as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction" (5). Moreover, Woolf makes it clear that these challenges are not restricted to one region or another, but rather extended throughout academia. For instance, she points out that, "I had no more right here in Fernham than in Trinity or Somerville or Girton or Newnham or Christchurch" (15). In addition, Woolf also describes the historic basis for the inequitable distribution of educational resources when she states, "the law denied [women] the right to possess what money they earned" and it was only relatively recently that women had gained the right to own property in their own right (19). In further support of her arguments, Woolf describes how this male-dominated system kept the plum career paths reserved for men while women languished in the background, hoping beyond hope for the day their time would come to also shine in the literary limelight.

The connection between Woolf's beliefs and her achievements is clear: by believing that she could become a successful author in a male-dominated industry, she could in fact overcome the challenges that faced all early female authors in the West during this period in history. Certainly, not everyone can be a Shakespeare, but Woolf argues that women never had half a chance to even try their hand at the Bard's craft because of the fundamental disparities that have kept women down through the centuries with men always calling the shots. In this regard, Woolf writes, "It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare" (39). Admittedly, as noted above, Woolf does provide some salient examples of how women writers can prevail despite all odds, but her assertions that substandard female authorship can be explained, and therefore excused, because of these disparities is somewhat disingenuous and self-serving, as if female authors need excusing for their failures, suggesting that conversely, the success of male authors can be likewise explained by these historic disparities.

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In the business world, it is axiomatic that in order to improve something, it must first be measured. Likewise, Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" provides some valuable benchmarks concerning the changing status of women writers over time, as well as some of the constraints they have faced compared to their male counterparts. In some ways, Woolf's assertions that in order to be successful, women writers must have their own room, with a lock and key to protect their privacy, as well as financial resources might seem even elitist to struggling writers of both sexes that lack these desirable conditions but still manage to crank out three thousand words a day in their quest for literary immortality. In fact, Woolf even resorts to playing the "moms have to stay home and take care of the kids" card in support of her arguments. Despite the flowery language and overwritten segments, though, "A Room of One's Own" was widely regarded as being revolutionary for its time because it compelled, in fact forced people, both men and women, to reevaluate the historic contributions of women writers and what this reevaluation meant for feminist and gender identity scholars in modern society. In the final analysis, it also provided some valuable benchmarks for modern scholars interested in queer theory and its origins in the early 20th century. Any assessment of women writers' contributions to the entire spectrum of literary pursuits since its writing

Among 20th century, there are more and more spirited women shaped and dedicated our country. Condoleezza Rice is one of them. She grew up in a childhood surrounded with racism in the segregated South. In her early year, although, it was quiet difficult for a black woman to gain a proper education during 60s. She, despite the environmental factors, learned her up and earned her Ph.D degree from the University of Denver' Graduate School of International Studies. Later in her life, she became the first Africa America woman to become Secretary of State. During her term, she initiated the policy of "Transformational Diplomacy" which focuses on the democracy in the Middle East ,made her turn into a controversial but also influential politician. Coming of the period during the Civil Rights Movement, Condoleezza Rice persisted on her values, beliefs and fought racism as one of the biggest roadblock in her life to become a modern-day role model.

"I had the best parents that God ever gave anyone" (Hutchison 272). Condoleezza Rice's values are heavily imparted by her parents. During the interview with Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rice mentions "they were totally devoted to me, unconditional love" and "they made me believe I could do anything" (272). Her family gave her a major life lesson during her childhood and encouraged her that what matters is what you choose to do. She believes responsibility, integrity with the ability to conquer obstacles are the main elements on the path to success. Moreover, Rice valued racism different with everyone else. She took a stand that racism and those so called "unspeakable act" were the criterion at that time. It is not something that people complained about. Racism is the circumstance that she simply recognized as "what it". In the interview between Russell Bishop and Condoleezza Rice, she stated blaming and complaining belong under the "category of victimizing yourself"(Russell Bishop).