Virginia woolfs vision



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Almost sixty-five years have lapsed sinee Virginia Woolf spoke at Newnham and Girton colleges on the subject
of women and fiction. Her remarkable words are preserved for future generations of women in A Room of One’s
Own. This essay is the “first manifesto of the modern feminist movement” (Samuelson), and has been called “a
notable preamble to a kind of feminine Declaration of Independence” (Muller 34). Woolf writes that her modest
goal for this ground-breaking essay is to “encourage the young women–they seem to get fearfully depressed”
(qtd. in Gordon xiv). This treatise on the history of women’s writings, reasons for the scarcity of great women
artists, and suggestions for future literary creators and creations accomplishes far more than simple inspiration and
motivation for young writers. Woolf questions the “effect . . . poverty has on fiction” and the “conditions . . .

necessary for the creation of works of art” (25), and she persuasively argues that economics are as important as
talent and inspiration in the creative process. She emphatically states and, with brilliant fiction, supports her
thesis that every woman “must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (4). Woolf’s witty and
beautifully crafted essay has a practical message for aspiring women writers: as pioneers in the virtually
unexplored frontier of women’s literature, and to create timeless, powerful works of art, they must forsake the
established mores of masculine creativity and forge their own traditions and styles.

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Woolf introduces this new literary tradition through the structure of her lecture. Rather than follow the
traditional format established through centuries of male lecturing, she “transforms the formidable lecture form
female equals” (Marcus, “Still” 79). She preserves this intimacy in the written essay as well. Woolf’s nephew and
biographer, Quentin Bell, writes that “in A Room of One’s Own one hears Virginia speaking . . . . she gets very
close to her conversational style” (144). Rather than submit her audience to the usual “dictation of the expert to
the ignorant” (Marcus, Virginia 145), Woolf involves her audience in her quest for answers. She advises them that
she plans to “make use of all the liberties and licenses of a novelist,” that her fiction is “likely to contain more
truth than fact,” and that they must “seek out this truth and . . . decide whether any part of it is worth keeping”
(4-5). She does not disclose “the truth as she sees it”; rather, she requires the audience to “participate in the
drama of asking questions and searching for Woolf’s creative departure from established lecture style delightfully
foreshadows her intent to generate entirely new feminine traditions and searching for answers” (Marcus, Virginia
Woolf encourages women to personally participate and identify with her ideas. She creates a fictitious narrator
through which she chronicles her thoughts and discoveries as she researches the topic of ‘women and fiction, “‘I’ is
only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being . . . call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary
Carmichael or by any name you please–it is not a matter of any importance” (4-5). Ellen Rosenman writes that by
“denying a ‘real’ existence, the narrator associates herself with anonymity,” and that “if we turn this statement
around . . . she is Everywoman” (160-61). By choosing these particular historical names to represent anyone and
everyone who joins the quest for truth, including herself, Woolf “accounts for much of the irony of her ‘story’ and
much of the force” of her essay (Jones 228). Through her clever use of fiction, Woolf shrewdly removes herself
from the position of authority, enhances audience identification with her narrator, and invites women to join her
search for “the true nature of women and the true nature of fiction” (4).

Woolf’s narrator, “Mary,” begins the quest for “the pure fluid, the essential oil of truth” (25) in the British
Museum, the very bastions of male literary tradition. Rosenman suggests that Woolf is laying the foundation of a
female tradition by allowing Mary to travel “through a series of alien rooms,” including the British Museum and
‘the common sitting room,’ “to a room of her own” (157). Mary’s “stupefaction, wonder and bewilderment” (Woolf
26) at the plethora of contradictory, inaccurate, oven trivial volumes about women by men whose only
qualification is “that they are not wmen” (27) awakens the reader to this travesty without directly revealing Woolf’s
personal feelings of

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