A Room of One's Own

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A Room of One's Own Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Virginia Woolf
Virginia Stephen was born into a wealthy and well-connected London family. Her father was Sir Leslie Stephen, a renowned critic and her mother was Julia Stephen, a beautiful woman who often modeled for portraits. Her mother died when Virginia was young, her brother also died tragically and her father died when she was 22. These events had a huge impact on Virginia's mental health and she was thereafter often treated for nervous breakdowns. In her youth, she was restricted from the level of education her brothers received but she learned as best she could and was soon surrounded by a group of intellectuals from the Cambridge colleges her brothers attended. With her siblings and friends, Virginia formed the Bloomsbury Group, dedicated to art, literature, politics and discussion. Leonard Woolf was one of the group and Virginia married him in 1912; the pair shared a long marriage, but the Bloomsbury group was famously liberal, politically and sexually, and Virginia also fell for Vita Sackville-West, who inspired the novel Orlando. She published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915, and wrote continuously up to the year of her death, publishing her most famous novels ( Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, and Orlando) between 1925 and 1928. She also wrote and delivered the lectures that became A Room of One's Own in 1928. Virginia's health continued to plague her through her life, and she eventually committed suicide at the age of 59.
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Historical Context of A Room of One's Own
The lectures were conceived by Woolf around the time that the law finally changed in Britain to allow women the vote. This monumental event came after years of struggle and gradual progress that Virginia was significantly influenced by as a woman and as a writer.
Other Books Related to A Room of One's Own
Other writers of creative non-fiction, where argument, narrative and poetry collide as in A Room of One's Own include Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and more recently, David Foster Wallace. Woolf's essays also paved the way for later women writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Susan Sontag to share their personal views in essays and memoirs.
Key Facts about A Room of One's Own
  • Full Title: A Room of One's Own
  • When Written: 1928
  • Where Written: Cambridge, England
  • When Published: 24 October 1929
  • Literary Period: Modernism, Feminism
  • Genre: Feminism, Essay
  • Setting: The narrator depicts a particular day in fictional university of Oxbridge, inspired by the quadrangles and impassable lawns of Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Point of View: Woolf speaks to the audience as herself but also sometimes assumes a first person narrator to describe the events of the days leading up to the lecture.
Extra Credit for A Room of One's Own

Four Marys. The four Mary characters that Woolf uses to make her points are inspired by the four ladies-in-waiting of the Queen of Scots, about whom a popular rhyme was written.

Judith's Legacy. The image of Judith Shakespeare's suicide was one of the most influential to come out of A Room of One's Own. The rock band The Smiths wrote a song about a girl committing suicide called "Shakespeare's Sister" based on Woolf's character.