VirginiaWoolf~biography ♠ 1882-1941 ♠ Woolf’s family Leslie Stephen Julia Jackson Duckworth Gerald Duckworth, her stepbrother Stella Duckworth, her stepsister Laura, half-sister Toby, brother ♠Father's influence and the early schooling benefited from the ongoing intellectual exchange occurring in her rich cultural milieu Source
♠Childhood experiences of death and sexual abuse lead to depression the death of her family her stepbrothers ♠the stream-of-consciousness technique--- best known as one of the greatexperimental novelists during the modernist period. The Voyage Out (1915) Night and Day (1917)traditional narratives Jacob's Room (1922)narrative experimentation with the novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927) the new narrative form that Woolf developed, the "stream-of-consciousness technique,“ found a more complete expression Source
♠A feminist—lesbianism, androgyny, women and writing Mrs. Dalloway-houses one of Woolf's earliest homoerotically suggestive scenarios. The description of Clarissa Dalloway and Sally Seton's relationship with each other as young women clearly alludes to a lesbian attraction. It anticipates the sexuality of Orlando and the relationship between Chloe and Olivia in A Room of One's Own. Both Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) show Woolf's concern to the questions of women's subjugation and of the relation between women and writing. ♠ Last Years By March 1941, Woolf's felt another recurrence and her depression became insurmountable.After rewriting drafts of her suicide note, she put rocks in her pockets and drowned herself in the River Ouse.
Works Cited • “Virginia Woolf.” 28 Dec. 2005 <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/vwoolf.htm>. • “Virginia Woolf.” The Literature Network. 28 Dec. 2005 <http://www.onlineliterature.com/virginia_woolf/>. • “Virginia Woolf .” Literature and Culture Teaching Database (文學與文化教學資料庫). 2004. Hermes Database Project 匯文網資料庫計畫. 28 Dec. 2005 <http://hermes.hrc.ntu.edu.tw/lctd/asp/authors/author.asp?id=00055>.
A Room of One’s Own • ...a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction... -Virginia Woolf
A Room of One’s Own The dramatic setting of A Room of One's Own is that Woolf has been invited to lecture on the topic of Women and Fiction. She advances the thesis that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Her essay is constructed as a partly-fictionalized narrative of the thinking that led her to adopt this thesis. She dramatizes that mental process in the character of an imaginary narrator ("call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please--it is not a matter of any importance") who is in her same position, wrestling with the same topic. The narrator begins her investigation at Oxford College, where she reflects on the different educational experiences available to men and women as well as on more material differences in their lives. She then spends a day in the British Library perusing the scholarship on women, all of which has written by men and all of which has been written in anger. Turning to history, she finds so little data about the everyday lives of women that she decides to reconstruct their existence imaginatively. The figure of Judith Shakespeare is generated as an example of the tragic fate a highly intelligent woman would have met with under those circumstances. In light of this background, she considers the achievements of the major women novelists of the nineteenth century and reflects on the importance of tradition to an aspiring writer. A survey of the current state of literature follows, conducted through a reading the first novel of one of the narrator's contemporaries. Woolf closes the essay with an exhortation to her audience of women to take up the tradition that has been so hardly bequeathed to them, and to increase the endowment for their own daughters.
Summary of “Shakespeare’s Sister” The narrator returns home disappointed at not having rounded up some useful tidbit of truth from her researches at the British Library. She turns at this point to history, which, she conjectures, "records not opinions but facts." As her starting point, she chooses to look into the lives of English women during the Elizabethan period--an era of surpassing literary accomplishment. History turns up little except a few terse statements about the legal rights of women in the early modern period (which were virtually non-existent). This reticence on the topic of women, and the fact of her utter powerlessness, strikes discordantly with the prevalence in literature of complex and strong female characters from ancient times to the present. "It would have been impossible," the narrator concludes from this thought-experiment, "completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare." To illustrate this conclusion, she conjures the imaginary character of Judith Shakespeare.
Summary of “Shakespeare’s Sister” Having explored the deep inner conflicts that a gifted woman must have felt during the Renaissance, the narrator goes on to ask, "What is the state of mind that is most propitious to the act of creation?" She marvels at the "prodigious difficulty" of producing a work of genius, and observes that circumstances generally conspire against it. She cites as obstacles the indifference of most of the world, the profusion of distractions, and the heaping up of various forms of discouragement. This is true for all artists, but how much more so for women! A woman would not even have a room of her own, unless her parents were exceptionally wealthy, and in her spending money and discretionary time she would be totally at the mercy of others. Being regularly told of female ineptitude, women would surely have internalized that belief; the absence of any tradition of female intellectuals would have made such arguments all the more viable. Though we like to think of genius as transcendent, the narrator holds that the mind of the artist is actually particularly susceptible to discouragement and vulnerable to the opinion of others. The mind of the artist, she says, "must be incandescent. ...There must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter unconsumed."
A Room of One’s Own– “Shakespeare's Sister” Comparison in Similarities
A Room of One’s Own– “Shakespeare's Sister” Comparison in Differences
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Theme • Women’s position in fiction and in real life • Critique of patriarchal society • Material and social difficulties
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Women’s position in “fiction” • Be the highest importance • Pervades poetry from cover to cover • Dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction • Inspired words and profound thought in literature fall fromher lips
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” • Examples: Among Dramatists: Clytemnestra, Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Phedre, Cressida, Rosalind, Desdemona, the Duchess of Malfi Among Prose Writer: Millamant, Clarissa, Becky Sharp, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Madame de Guermantes
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Women’s position in “real life” • Be insignificant • Be absent from history • The property of her husband and slave of marriage • Be Rarely educated
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Examples: • year 1470 - ‘Wife–beating’ was a recognized right of man, and was practised without shame by high as well as low. . . . Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion. Marriage was not an affair of personal affection, but of family avarice, particularly in the “chivalrous” upper classes. . .. Betrothal often took place while one or both of the parties was in the cradle, and marriage when they were scarcely out of the nurses’ charge. • year 1670 - It was still the exception for women of the upper and middle class to choose their own husbands, and when the husband had been assigned, he was lord and master, so far at least as law and custom could make him.
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Critique of patriarchal society • Chastity • He shall be superior
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister”Critique of patriarchal society Examples: • Pericles – the publicity in women is detestable • A bishop – It’s impossible for any woman to have the genius of Shakespeare. • Mr. Oscar Browning – woman’s intellect is inferior to the worst man’s
A Room of One’s Own – “Shakespeare's Sister” Material and social difficulties • ‘Mighty poets in their misery dead’ • For genius like Shakespeare’s is not born among labouring, uneducated, servile people.
Works Cited • “A Room of One’s Own.” SparkNotes. 28 Dec. 2005<http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/roomofonesown/section3.rhtml>. • “Virginia Woolf .” Literature and Culture Teaching Database (文學與文化教學資料庫). 2004. Hermes Database Project 匯文網資料庫計畫. 28 Dec. 2005 <http://hermes.hrc.ntu.edu.tw/lctd/asp/authors/author.asp?id=00055>. • 張秀亞譯, <自己的房間>,台北:天培文化, 1990.
“Professions for Women” • Women's Service League • Talks about the two obstacles she faces in her professional life http://www.intemperies.net/blog/images/misc/vwoolf2.jpg
obstacle one: • battle with a certain phantom - the Angel in the House
obstacle two: • telling the truth about her own experiences as a body
source source Source source Source
Why a writer? “The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded as writers before they have succeeded in the other professions.” (2215)
Who is she? • “She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it—in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others.” (2215) • “Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty” (2215) • “tell lies if they are to succeed” (2216)
How can a writer write if she doesn’t have her own thoughts? Thoughts By Frida Kahlo Diego “you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own”(2216) source
So, she starts to take action. • “I turned upon her and caught her by the throat.” • “I did my best to kill her.” • “Had I not killed her she would have killed me.” • “I took up the inkpot and flung it at her.” • “She died hard.” (2216)
Why take such an effort? • “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.” (2216) • express “the truth about human relations, morality, sex” (2216) • "I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill.” (2216)
Next obstacle… • To fight against “The consciousness of— what men will say of a woman who speaks the truth about her passions had roused her from her artist’s state of unconsciousness” (2217) http://www.burkhartstudios.com/burkhart/drawings/virginia_woolf.jpg
“Men, her reason told her, would be shocked.” (2217) • “For though men sensibly allow themselves great freedom in these respects” (2217) • “a novelist’s chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible” (2217)
“she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed it will be a long time still, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against.” (2217)
18312005 • room • money
“She could write no more. The trance was over. Her imagination could work no longer.” (2217)
“celebration” of female sexuality • The Vagina Monologues • By Eve Ensler http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/woolf_v.jpg http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1675000/images/_1678874_eve300.jpg
Study Questions “Shakespeare’s Sister” 1. According to Woolf, why wouldn’t Shakespeare’s sister have had the same career as Shakespeare? 2. What are the historical roots for women's poverty? 3. Why are men so rich and women so poor, according to Woolf? 4. What explains the startling contrast between women's estate in fiction (as "shining beacons" and as symbols of humanity) and in history (as slaves)? “Professions for Women” 1. What is a woman? 2. How are the women different in the past and present generations? 3. Why is killing “the angel in house” so important? 4. Why don’t men allow women to speak the truth about their own experiences?
Work Cited • Chien 簡瑛瑛. 《何處是女兒家》Taipei: 聯合文學. 民 87. 11月. • Showalter, Elaine. “Killing the angel in the House: The Autonomy of Women Writers.” 26 Dec. 2005 <http://www.indiana.edu/~ovid99/showalter.html>. • Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. 26 Dec. 2005 <http://www.virginiawoolfsociety.co.uk/index.html>. • Woolf, Virginia. “Professions for Women.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams, et al. 7th ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2000. 2214-19.