The Scope of Woolf’s Feminism in A Room of One’s Own Essay

The Scope of Woolf’s Feminism in A Room of One’s Own Essay

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The Scope of Woolf’s Feminism in A Room of One’s Own
Missing Works Cited

A highly contested statement on women and fiction, Virginia Woolf’s extended
essay A Room of One’s Own has been repeatedly reviewed, critiqued, and analyzed since
its publication in 1929. Arnold Bennett, an early twentieth-century novelist, and David
Daiches, a literary critic who wrote an analysis entitled Virginia Woolf in 1942 (Murphy
247), were among those to attempt to extricate the themes and implications of Woolf’s
complex essay. The two critics deal with the often-discussed feminist aspect of Woolf’s
essay in interestingly different ways. Bennett states that Woolf’s essay is not a feminist work, rejects the idea that Woolf’s discussion of women and fiction may lean towards the political, and reduces the essay’s scope to a collection of musings on women and fiction.

Daiches responds to A Room of One’s Own in the opposite way: he claims that Woolf’s
work is feminist, and Woolf’s feminism emphasizes not only women and their
relationship to fiction, but all people of genius who have not had an opportunity to use it
because of their lack of money and privacy. While Bennett restricts the scope of the
essay to a non- feminist, completely apolitical ideology and Daiches enlarges the scope to
a wide, universal feminism, Woolf’s own intention in writing A Room of One’s Own may
have actually been to create a work that lay somewhere in between these two extremes.

In one of the earliest reviews of A Room of One’s Own, British novelist Arnold
Bennett addressed the question of feminism in the essay and concluded that Woolf was
not writing from a feminist perspective. “It is a book a little about men and a great deal
about women. But it is no...


... middle of paper ...


...ments do point out important limits on Woolf’s feminism. As Arnold Bennett says, Woolf’s concerns are not political; although
our modern definition of feminism is wider than Bennett’s was, Woolf’s lack of political
interest does certainly limit the scope of her feminism. David Daiches’s critique of the
essay points out another important characteristic of Woolf’s feminist thought. Her
feminism is not, as Daiches believes based in a “larger democratic feeling.” Woolf’s
feminism is in actuality quite limited in tha t she only applies it to British, upper middleclass women writers. Virginia Woolf’s essay-which to Bennett seemed non- feminist and to Daiches seemed feminist- universalist-is, by our modern definition, feminist; however, the borders of culture, class, and profession that composed her frame of reference drastically limit the scope of Woolf’s feminism.

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