NEH Grant EX-20049-01


A Room of One’s Own



A Room of One’s Own was published in 1929, a revision and expansion of papers read at Newnham and Girton colleges in 1928.  The work has been extremely influential, especially with feminist thinkers and women writers, but also as a marker of a cultural turning point in the larger field of intellectual history. The iniating premise is a visit by Mary Beton (Virginia Woolf) to Oxbridge (a term combining Oxford and Cambridge), and her thoughts about male and female opportunities, women as writers, and literary theory in general. She discusses “Shakespeare’s sister,” a symbol for unrealized female genius. The echoing refrain from the work is the assertion that for women to be able to write, they need an independent income and the freedom and privacy to concentrate: a room of one’s own.

Essay Questions & Paper Topics

1.      Discuss Woolf’s belief that “we think back through our mothers if we are women.”

2.      Examine Woolf’s comparison of the flaws of Charlotte Bronte and the strengths of Jane Austen. Does this argue against Woolf as a feminist?

3.      Why is it “fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex”?

4.      What is Woolf’s conception of the nature of genius?

5.      Study the impact of “A Room of One’s Own.”


Fernald, Anne. “A room of one’s own, personal criticism, and the essay.” Twentieth century literature. Summer 1994 v.40:2

Moran, Patricia.  “Cock-a-doodle-dum: sexology and ‘A room of one’s own.’” Women’s studies. August 2001 v.30:4

Rosenman, Ellen Bayuk. “Sexual identity and ‘A room of one’s own’: ‘secret economies in Virginia Woolf’s feminist discourse.” Signs. Spring 1989 v.14:3

Solomon, Julie Robin. “Staking ground: the politics of space in Virginia Woolf’s ‘A room of one’s own’ and ‘Three guineas.” Women’s studies. October 1989 v.16:3-4

Trotman, Nat. “The burning between: androgyny/photography/desire.” Women’s studies. July 1999 v.28:4

Video Recording:

“Virginia Woolf: a room of one’s own.” Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1996.

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