Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

What is now known as A Room of One’s Own began as two essays, parts of which were read to the Arts Society at Newnham and to the Odtaa at Girton in October of 1928. These essays were later revised and extended by Woolf into a short book of six chapters which mixes fact and fiction to analyze the roles and relationships of money and gender in regard to the production of art, specifically fiction by women.

Woolf composed the original essays to deliver as speeches to groups of young college women—women who were at that time forbidden to enter England’s university system because of their gender. The topic of “women and fiction” forms the continuing motif of the book, as Woolf attempts different compositions of the question before attempting to answer them: What are women like? What is fiction written by women like? What is fiction written about women like? These questions led her to connect gender and fiction with economics at a time when women had just recently received the right to vote and the right to own property. She thus further asks such questions as “Why did men drink wine and women water?” and “What effect has poverty on fiction?”

Woolf begins to answer the questions about women and fiction by inventing a fictional college called Fernham. She refers to herself as a fictional character—“I”—and stresses that she speaks as a kind of Everywoman. She finds not only that she is barred from the library because...

(The entire section is 418 words.)