Critical analysis: Virginia Woolf, 'A Room of One's Own.'

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Emma Alaball-03069044.

EL1S04-Reading/Writing women.

Diana Wallace.


Critical analysis:

Virginia Woolf,

‘A Room of One’s Own.’

Emma Alaball-03069044.

EL1S04-Reading/Writing women.

Diana Wallace.  17/11/03

Virginia Woolf is one of the most highly acclaimed female authors and feminists of the nineteenth and twentieth century.  Her essay and lecture, ‘A room of one’s Own,’ clearly demonstrates her attitude and opinions towards a patriarchal society during her lifetime.  Woolf portrays her judgments through the use of language, style, narrative, and outspoken viewpoints about men, male-dominance, and female subservience.  The end of chapter six is a clarification and summary of Woolf’s beliefs, which are expressed throughout the essay.  This essay will provide a critical analysis of this part.

        Woolf’s use of style, language, and narrative is evident throughout the extract.  She particularly uses irony and sarcasm combined with humour in order to contradict the general opinions of men, as well as to emphasise and clarify her argument.  “Like most uneducated women…I like reading books in the bulk.”  This quote is particularly ironic, in that one must be educated in order to be able to read accurately.  Here, Woolf is using the male belief that women are uneducated with the intention of rebelling against the society in which she lives, as she challenges the ‘male’ form of literature.  Woolf does this by outwardly criticizing male-dominated genres, for example, she claims that biographies are “too much about great men,” and that “history is too much about wars.”  Moreover, through using irony and sarcasm, Woolf demonstrates how ‘male dominance is expressed and secured institutionally.’  It is expressed through the fact that the majority of literature about women is written by men, and secured through male supremacy in literature as a whole.  For example, the majority of famous authors, (including those in the canon,) are middle or aristocratic males.  

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Woolf moreover emphasises gender hierarchy throughout the essay in numerous ways.  She develops the ‘looking glass theory’ of gender hierarchy, in which she argues how men insist on women’s inferiority in order to affirm their own superiority.  “Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule…reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.”  Gender hierarchy is in many ways similar to her other novel ‘Orlando,’ which allows the reader to ‘consider the construction of gender hierarchies, then to explore the possibility of their subversion.’  Both ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and ‘Orlando’ gives ...

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