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A Room of One's Own, and Three Guineas [Paperback]

Virginia Woolf
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Book Description

July 26 2008 0199536600 978-0199536603
In A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf considers with energy and wit the implications of the historical exclusion of women from education and from economic independence. In A Room of One's Own (1929), she examines the work of past women writers, and looks ahead to a time when women's creativity will not be hampered by poverty, or by oppression. In Three Guineas (1938), however, Woolf argues that women's historical exclusion offers them the chance to form a political andcultural identity which could challenge the drive towards fascism and war.

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Review

'Together these ten volumes make an attractive and reasonably priced (the volumes vary between L3.99 and L4.99) working edition of Virginia Woolf's best-known writing. One can only hope that their success will prompt World's Classics to add her other essays to the series in due course.' Elisabeth Jay, Westminster College, Oxford, Review of English Studies, Vol. XLV, No. 178, May '94

About the Author

Morag Shiach is a Lecturer in English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London.

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Format:Paperback
Needed it for school. cheaper here than anywhere else. Served the purpose.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  112 reviews
156 of 159 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Essay on Women and Fiction Nov. 8 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1928, Virginia Woolf was asked to speak on the topic of "women and fiction". The result, based upon two papers she delivered to literary societies at Newnham and Girton in October of that year, was "A Room of One's Own", an extended essay on women as both writers of fiction and as characters in fiction. And, while Woolf suggests that, "when a subject is highly controversial-and any question about sex is that-one cannot hope to tell the truth," her essay is, in fact, an extraordinarily even-handed, thoughtful and perceptive reflection on the topic.
Woolf begins with a simple and enigmatic opinion: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unresolved." From this spare beginning, Woolf deftly explores the difference between how women had been portrayed in fiction, and how they actually lived in the world, during the preceding centuries. "A very queer, composite being emerges. Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was a slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger."
The source of dissonance between how women were portrayed in fiction, and how they actually lived, was the fact that most fiction prior to the nineteenth century was written by men. As Woolf astutely points out, "[i]t was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex." Woolf's observation is no feminist polemic; it is, rather, an incisive comment on how fiction was impoverished when it was written only by men.
Even when fiction was written by women, it was powerfully influenced by patriarchal notions of virtue and the proper role of women. Thus, Woolf suggests there could be no female Shakespeare in sixteenth century England because no women would be tolerated who lived in the real world like the Bard. "No girl could have walked to London and stood at a stage door and forced her way into the presence of actor-managers without doing herself violence and suffering an anguish which may have been irrational-for chastity may be a fetish invented by societies for unknown reasons-but were none the less inevitable." Indeed, this "relic of the sense of chastity" dictated that more daring female authors-George Eliot, George Sand, Currer Bell-maintain anonymity as late as the nineteenth century.
When female writers did find a "room of their own," they were still limited by social and cultural imperatives. Thus, the first of the great women novelists-Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot-wrote largely from the drawing room, not from the experiences of the larger world-the very conditions of their writing life being as cramped as the their restricted lives. As Woolf notes, in commenting on Charlotte Bronte, "[s]he knew, no one better, how enormously her genius would have profited if it had not spent itself in solitary visions over distant fields; if experience and intercourse and travel had been granted her. But they were not granted, they were withheld."
Ultimately, Woolf suggests that the "true" nature of women will only be approached in fiction when women are sufficiently independent-not only in a financial sense, but in the sense of being freed from societal and cultural restraints-to explore the quotidian, the everyday lives of people in the world. This is the aspect of the fictional world that, in Woolf's view, was absent from the male-dominated novel prior to the nineteenth century.
Woolf further suggests that the "true" nature of fiction is expressed only through those writers who can transcend their narrow sexual roles-become "man-womanly" or "woman-manly"-so as to convey the fullness of the real world. As Woolf notes, "Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all of its faculties." Based on this criterion, Woolf promulgates her own canon of English male writers, a canon which includes Shakespeare, Keats, Sterne, Cowper, Lamb, Coleridge, and Proust (who "was perhaps wholly androgynous, if not perhaps a little too much of a woman").
"A Room of One's Own" is, in sum, a fascinating, thoughtful and perceptive essay on women and fiction written by one of the Twentieth century's most formidable writers and thinkers, a woman who truly succeeded in creating a room of her own in the canon of modern English literature.
77 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Woolf! June 5 2003
By Peggy Vincent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Some of Virginia Woolf's writing is difficult for the modern reader to plough through - loooong sentences, convoluted construction, excessive naval gazing (in fictional form). But A Room of One's Own, a very long essay about feminism, independence, writing, and becoming one's own person, is actually quite readable, quite educational, and quite wonderful. The reader, at least this one, feels she's in the presence of a great mind at work as it ruminates on and on about these topics in a somewhat rambling but engaging personal reflection. Although written in 1929, the situation for women artists hasn't changed all that much, so it's far from dated.
A must-read.
72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a requirement for any modern, intellectual woman. Oct. 11 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "A Room of One's Own," Virginia Woolf says that in order for a woman to write fiction, she must have money and a room of her own; I believe that to be, or to understand, an intellectual woman in this century, one must read this book. Unlike a sad number of feminist writers, Woolf does not make the mistake of tearing down the accomplishments of men in order to make room for those of women. Indeed, she speaks eloquently against just that danger throughout "A Room of One's Own," which is partly what allows it to stand not only as a feminist classic, but also as a classic piece of both literature and literary criticism. It is not often that an essay reaches creative heights great enough to establish itself equally as a work of art and an intellectual effort, but Woolf has done it here. She does not waste her words or her energy on destructive, angry prattling. She writes with a depth of humanity that challenges us to be better writers, better thinkers, and better people.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Essay on Women and Fiction April 13 2002
By "botatoe" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1928, Virginia Woolf was asked to speak on the topic of "women and fiction". The result, based upon two papers she delivered to literary societies at Newnham and Girton in October of that year, was "A Room of One's Own", an extended essay on women as both writers of fiction and as characters in fiction. And, while Woolf suggests that, "when a subject is highly controversial-and any question about sex is that-one cannot hope to tell the truth," her essay is, in fact, an extraordinarily even-handed, thoughtful and perceptive reflection on the topic.
Woolf begins with a simple and enigmatic opinion: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unresolved." From this spare beginning, Woolf deftly explores the difference between how women had been portrayed in fiction, and how they actually lived in the world, during the preceding centuries. "A very queer, composite being emerges. Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was a slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger."
The source of dissonance between how women were portrayed in fiction, and how they actually lived, was the fact that most fiction prior to the nineteenth century was written by men. As Woolf astutely points out, "[i]t was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex." Woolf's observation is no feminist polemic; it is, rather, an incisive comment on how fiction was impoverished when it was written only by men.
Even when fiction was written by women, it was powerfully influenced by patriarchal notions of virtue and the proper role of women. Thus, Woolf suggests there could be no female Shakespeare in sixteenth century England because no women would be tolerated who lived in the real world like the Bard. "No girl could have walked to London and stood at a stage door and forced her way into the presence of actor-managers without doing herself violence and suffering an anguish which may have been irrational-for chastity may be a fetish invented by societies for unknown reasons-but were none the less inevitable." Indeed, this "relic of the sense of chastity" dictated that more daring female authors-George Eliot, George Sand, Currer Bell-maintain anonymity as late as the nineteenth century.
When female writers did find a "room of their own," they were still limited by social and cultural imperatives. Thus, the first of the great women novelists-Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot-wrote largely from the drawing room, not from the experiences of the larger world-the very conditions of their writing life being as cramped as the their restricted lives. As Woolf notes, in commenting on Charlotte Bronte, "[s]he knew, no one better, how enormously her genius would have profited if it had not spent itself in solitary visions over distant fields; if experience and intercourse and travel had been granted her. But they were not granted, they were withheld."
Ultimately, Woolf suggests that the "true" nature of women will only be approached in fiction when women are sufficiently independent-not only in a financial sense, but in the sense of being freed from societal and cultural restraints-to explore the quotidian, the everyday lives of people in the world. This is the aspect of the fictional world that, in Woolf's view, was absent from the male-dominated novel prior to the nineteenth century.
Woolf further suggests that the "true" nature of fiction is expressed only through those writers who can transcend their narrow sexual roles-become "man-womanly" or "woman-manly"-so as to convey the fullness of the real world. As Woolf notes, "Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all of its faculties." Based on this criterion, Woolf promulgates her own canon of English male writers, a canon which includes Shakespeare, Keats, Sterne, Cowper, Lamb, Coleridge, and Proust (who "was perhaps wholly androgynous, if not perhaps a little too much of a woman").
"A Room of One's Own" is, in sum, a fascinating, thoughtful and perceptive essay on women and fiction written by one of the Twentieth century's most formidable writers and thinkers, a woman who truly succeeded in creating a room of her own in the canon of modern English literature.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Intelligent Argument on Behalf of Female Writers June 7 2001
By "neeterskeeter27" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Virginia Woolf is a writer of intelligence and grace. A Room of One's Own is a skinny little treasure of a book with words and wisdom that will stay with the reader long after it is read. The essay contained in the book is the result of two papers that Ms. Woolf read to the Arts Society at newnham and Odtaa at Girton (England) in October of 1928. She was asked to speak about the topic of "Women and Fiction", and after doing so, she expanded her papers and later published them as this book.
Woolf begins the essay by writing, "I soon saw that [the subject of women and fiction] had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion. I should never be able to fulfil what is, I understand, the first duty of a lecturer- to hand you after an hour's discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece for ever. All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point- a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction... At any rate, when a subject is highly controversial- and any question about sex is that- one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opionion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conslusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker."
It is in this straightforward and honest manner that Woolf writes about women and fiction. Although the speech was given and the book was published in 1929, all of its points are still important for women- and especially women writers and artists- today. In A Room of One's Own Woolf examines classic literary works of the past and wonders why most, until the 19th Century, were written by men, and why most of the works published by women in the 19th Century were fiction. She comes to the logical conclusion that women in the past had little to no time to write because of their childbearing and raising responsibilities. There is also the fact that they were not educated and were forbidden or discouraged from writing. When they did begin to write, they only had the common sitting rooms of Elizabethan homes to do so in, which did not provide much solitude or peace of mind, as it was open to any interruption and distraction that came along.
Woolf argues passionately that true independence comes with economic well-being. This is true for countries, governments, individuals, and writers, especially female writers. Without financial security it is impossible for any writer to have the luxury of writing for writing's sake. It is also a very inspiring book for any aspiring write to read. I end this review with Virginia Woolf's own hopes for women in the future:
"... I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast. By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream."
(If you liked this review, please read my other book reviews under my Amazon profile...)
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