Top positive review
A Classic with a Possibly Mixed Legacy
Reviewed in the United States on June 4, 2018
A Room of One’s Own is of course canonical and hardly needs another recommendation. The almost flippant tone with which Wolff skewers male artistic superiority with arguments while simultaneously refuting the same idea with a style itself ingenious etches in one’s soul the plight of women in the early twentieth century.
And, of course, the book is almost a victim of its own success. Few women in Western countries are now dissuaded from having an artistic career. The women’s movement has, so to speak, moved on to demands like equal pay.
So I’ll merely point out one perspective which may have been overlooked by some readers. That is, that Woolf’s cause is completely centered around the problems of first world women. Basically, Woolf argues that women do not have the access to the wealth or education that men have and, as a result, have not produced an artistic genius like Shakespeare. Fair enough. But how many women in the period following the First World War were concerned about having an outlet for their creativity? Were not women in many parts of the world so bereft of even their natural human rights so as not to over worry about outlets for creativity?
For all its indisputable genius, A Room of One’s Own then may arguably be charged with a mixed legacy. Yes, it highlighted the need for privileged women to be equals of men in their access to the fonts of creativity. But it also may have tended to direct feminism to a first world perspective leaving out the voices of billions of women who Woolf, for all her literary aplomb, does not seem overly concerned about, at least in this work.
Literary classic? Undoubtedly. Mixed effect on the direction of twentieth century feminism? A distinct possibility.