Virginia Woolf's "A Room Thesis

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Thus, even the oldest social habits and events, such as sports and attitudes that promote over-powering another force, do not go unnoticed by Woolf. Indeed, it seems that the more commonplace an action is in society, the more scrutiny it is given by Woolf as a possible threat to her thriving. The "illusion" of a peaceful world, pre-war, is thus shattered by a grateful Woolf, who it seems would try to mentally and emotionally strengthen herself to better cope with a war-torn, patriarchal world.

Armed with anger, intelligence, and compassion, Woolf takes a historical stance and informs her reading public that:

Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian

slaves […] That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own.

However, thanks to the toils of those obscure women in the past [...] these evils are in the way to be bettered (Woolf).

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Knowing history is one way that people can learn from past mistakes, so as to rework one's life approach, and experience further growth and development. By researching history, Woolf embarks on that essential aspect of feminism that attempts to better life for all people, not just women. Not only is Woolf giving others the opportunity to improve their everyday lives, but she too gives "thanks to the toils of those obscure women in the past" that give hope to individuals who do not know how social "evils are in a way to be bettered" (no page number). Similarly to Woolf's deep appreciation for the world as a whole, that which is outside of herself, the rise to feminism, from limiting patriarchal social norms, attempts to supersede the Western world from negative to positive habits.

Dissertation or Thesis complete on Virginia Woolf's "A Room of Assignment

Despite the crashing of patriarchy's historically common events of extreme violence and intermittent threat of death, Woolf maintains an element of sentimentalism, which defines the Modern genre and the spirit-of-the-time. "A Room of One's Own" shows the gambit of human emotion, swinging from an indifferent sort of hopelessness to a reoccurring nostalgia that eventuates into a peaceful, inner strength and stability. Reflecting on another dinner party, Woolf writes that:

the wineglasses had flushed yellow and flushed crimson; had been emptied; had been filled.

And thus by degrees was lit, half-way down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself (no page number).

Not only is Woolf's memory positive in nature, but the way she writes is also highly poignant in such a way that persuasively moves readers to follow along in her daydreaming pursuits. As a reader, you want to be at that dinner party, you want to have those friends, you want to feel that deeply satisfying sense of peace and contentment. Woolf's differentiation between two different kinds of happiness, the first, which "pops," "brilliance," and "the more profound" happiness, a "subtle glow […] [and] rational intercourse, with "[n]o need to hurry"; and, unlike the first happiness, the latter happiness has "[n]o need to sparkle" (no page number). The predominance of Woolf's philosophy that there is "[n]o need to be anybody but oneself" marks Modernism as separate from the traditional, patriarchal system, and paves the way for future feminist theory and work.

One of Woolf's most remarkable influences as a Modernist and early feminist is the way that her logic is poignantly rendered into self and socially empowering diction. While she tells readers that women and men ought to better their own lives, Woolf so too becomes exceptional at effective communication, essentially helping to inspire others in ways of feminism. She so deliberates that:

if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky. too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton's bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down" (Woolf no page number).

This courage to be strong and empowered internally when the external world is out of one's control is essentially what Woolf seems to espouse in this call to "profound," "rational," "no need to hurry" disposition. As Woolf contests in her out-of-place laughs, awkwardness, and truths explored behind the safety of abstract stream-of-consciousness, acquiring this inner peace is difficult when the world proves to sometimes fight human existence with violence and war. The one constant in life that remains parallel to the threat of imminent death for Woolf is hope. In the beginning of this address, Woolf preps readers with the recurring inclusion of "if": "if we have the habit of freedom and courage," "if we face the fact"; by saying "if," Woolf gives her readers a choice to choose a better life for themselves (no page number).

As a result of her empowering rhetoric, Woolf reintroduces the practice of philosophically reassessing normative social traditions. In later social movements, such as Postmodernism, intellectuals furthered Woolf's interest in notions of space and personal freedom. Renowned twentieth century philosopher Michel Foucault postulated that "space is neither neutral nor innocent but invested with power, as space becomes a means of disciplinary force and surveillance" (Gan no page number). In fact, "Woolf's prescient phrase ["a room of her own"] highlights an increasing awareness of the importance of spatial privacy to modern women" (Gan no page number). Feminism ultimately seeks to ameliorate everyday life for everyone, apart from gender, nationality, social status, etcetera. One can clearly see how Woolf fostered this sort of humanitarian, non-prejudiced social standard through her appreciation of the world-at-large.

Furthermore, Woolf was extremely politically and socially creative: she created many possible options for women to gain the freedom that she saw lacked from society (Stavely no page number). While this specific idea did not materialize:

Woolf advocated public support of the married woman who, having been barred from earning her own living, should be paid by the state to support her domestic work. Moreover,

Woolf argued that it was the professional sister's obligation to agitate publicly for this support, once her own career has been established. This concern for the economic disadvantage of the "stay-at-home" mother chimed with the aims of a contemporary political organization allied with the Six Point Group; the Married Women's Association (MWA)


Interestingly, Woolf was not trying to put women in a point-of-advantage over men, or to change their position, or role, in the family, she was simply attempting to give women more security in that position. By allocating government money to married women, society would have provided the financial means for parents to still have their children raised by an at-home-parent; in addition to the fact that women would have been able to raise their children themselves while maintaining a sense of personal (financial) freedom. Financial independence is truly key to having the freedom to make a decision and act on it in the physical world. Thus, in the post-patriarchal society, it is essential that women have some financial freedom in order to have intellectual freedom.

From Woolf's progressive views on abstract issues, deconstructing one's prejudices and assumptions, and personal empowerment, subsequent theorists further investigate issues of the costs of personal freedom in a patriarchal world. Indeed, '"John Rawls argues that war can be waged justly in self-defense ("but not, as in the traditional account of sovereignty" [...] to protect a state's interest) and to protect the human rights of another" (Eide no page number). This concept of waging war for "self-defense" draws immediate connection with the World Wars that Woolf so adamantly opposed. Yet one can understand Rawls' argument as an extension of that anger that Woolf originally used as a catalyst for rethinking regimented social norms. Indeed, perhaps for a person to truly grow and develop from a state of dependence, one must rebel completely against any opposition posed to the person. Certainly, "[i]f there are two interrelated values that unite the various branches of and approaches to feminism, they are probably an awareness of oppression and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Virginia Woolf's "A Room.  (2011, June 1).  Retrieved September 23, 2020, from

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