Much of Woolf’s writing frustrates me. I’m a great lover of Aristotle’s notion of plot. The notion of a turn. Beginning, middle and end. Even though Orlando transports me for the ambition and gender fuckery – and the fact that it was conceived as a love letter – it also feels so elaborate (cut to the chase). ‘A Room of One’s Own’ has power because it talks about position and gender equality in the way that many of Wolf’s texts don’t being bound up in class. It acknowledges the position and changeability of money, but its intent is also clear: “It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare”. However, the sense of hope still resonates in the essay and the sense of the baton being passed on, for generations to come: “This poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and me and many other women who were not here tonight.” It’s the timeless quality of imparting wisdom and historical context that moves me.
First published September, 1929 in a Canadian quarterly literary based on two lectures Woolf delivered at Newnham and Girton Colleges, then by the Hogarth Press. Now widely available, including as a Penguin Modern Classic and a Vintage Feminism Short Edition