Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Room of One's Own

A Room of One’s Own struck me mainly as a sort of feminine response to “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” though I don’t know if it was meant that way on any level (though I imagined that she must have at least considered it, due to her association with Eliot). Reading it in full (rather than just the excerpt I had read before, taken from chapters three and four to emphasize her “Shakespeare’s Sister” argument), I was glad to see that Woolf discussed some of the earlier women writers of the Renaissance period and was able to consider them in terms of a kind of tradition despite her reservations, since my initial response I think had been the same as the type Gubar mentioned of being concerned that she was overly condemning of what she viewed as anger. But taken in the context of her whole argument about warning against an excessively antagonistic relationship between the sexes or overly gendered styles of writing, it made more sense to me.

I wished that she had discussed more women writers’ works, particularly her actual contemporaries, since I was curious to know just how close to having a “Judith Shakespeare” she really thought women writers were in her time. Her references to Rebecca West made it sound as if she thought West may have been too radical herself (57), which surprised me, since I had previously wondered whether West would be considered modern, or overly Edwardian or materialistic in some way by her standards, due to West’s association with Wells. Woolf’s reference to “the aloe that flowers once in a hundred years would flower twice before I could set pen to paper” (27) also seemed like it could have been an implicit reference to Mansfield’s “Prelude,” though I wasn’t sure if that was deliberate either, since it also seemed like the lack of overt references to her may have been based on Woolf’s own concerns about her work, while the lack of other references to modern women writers seemed as though Woolf was maybe trying to imply that she was actually the sort of woman writer that she spoke of being necessary (or at least tried so hard to be that any other type of writer would appear insufficient), but tried to distance herself from this interpretation by using the “Mary Beton” perspective as a frame (unless she just retained some of the same discomfort with overtly expressing her opinions that she criticized in “Mary Carmichael,” or just really didn’t mean for these arguments to be taken as exactly hers and wanted her audience to disagree with these points, but I’d figured the former idea was more likely given Gubar’s explanation of her struggles with writing about her opinions). With earlier writers, I wasn’t sure if Woolf just really didn’t consider them worth discussion, or if many of them were just so obscure at this time that she really wasn’t aware of them (since so many older works by women it seems get promoted as “rediscoveries” now), though I know it could also just have had to do with the “lecture” format that likely made her want to keep it short (though it still seems way to long to imagine actually given as a speech, or even two speeches, though maybe it would just seem to go by faster if it were being read aloud).

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