Outline of A Room of One's Own

Updated August 28, 2000
Created July 8, 1997

Publication History:
-October 1928 - Woolf delivers lectures on Women and Fiction at the two 
	women’s colleges of Cambridge University, Newnham (Saturday, Oct. 
	20, an after-dinner lecture) and Girton (Friday, Oct. 26).  No 
	manuscripts survive of these lectures. 
-March 1929 - Woolf publishes "Women and Fiction" in Forum (8 pages)
-24 Oct 1929 Hogarth Press publishes a much expanded and changed 
  	A Room of One’s Own (See also Publication History for information
        about the Rosenbloom manuscript edition.)

Chapter One  October, Oxbridge; Women are Poor
	Announces thesis ("an opinion based upon one minor point"): "a 
	woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write 
	fiction" (4) and proposed a novelistic approach to defending it, 
	using a narrator, here called "Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary 
	Carmichael or by any name you please" (5), but in Chapter 6 
	referred to as Mary Beton (105).
	Metaphor of thinking as fishing; beadle warns narrator off the 
	turf and a librarian bars her from a "famous library."
	Elegant lunch at a men’s college; sees cat without tail (11); 
	contrasts pre-war to post-war life ("humming noise" 12); glimpses 
	"bent figure" of "J—H—" (17; later identified as Greek scholar 
	Jane Harrison).
	Contrasts poor dinner at "Fernham" to the riches of the men’s 
	colleges; her host "Mary Seton" traces history of the women’s 
	colleges; narrator links their poverty to the status of women 

Chapter Two  London; Men are Angry
	Narrator goes to the British Museum to find out "Why did men drink 
	wine and women water? . . . What effect has poverty on fiction?" 
	(25) and, after seeing the card catalog on "Women," "Why are women 
	. . . so much more interesting to men than men are to women" 
	Constructs picture of Professor von X, representing scholars who 
	write on "W" (31) and analyzes the anger she and they feel on the 
	subject (32), from all of which she extracts "the one fact of 
	anger" (33).
	Refers to her aunt "Mary Beton" leaving narrator a legacy of 500 
	pounds a year (37; Woolf’s own legacy from her aunt Caroline 
	Emilia Stephen was capital of 2500 pounds, or about $185,000 
	in today's U.S. dollars (115,000 in today's pounds). Invested, 
	it earned her about 100 pounds a year, or about $7360 in today's 
	U.S. dollars.	
	Concludes with observations about women’s advancement and 
	speculation on loss of protected status.

Chapter Three  London, Women in Fiction vs. Women in History
	Uses Professor Trevelyan’s History of England to look up 
	information about women in England in the Renaissance to learn why 
	women were not writing then as men were.  Contrasts women depicted 
	in fiction ("of the utmost importance" 43) with women in history 
	books ("all but absent").
	Imagines story of Shakepeare’s "sister," Judith Shakespeare, and 
	speculates about lost women writers, "some mute and inglorious 
	Jane Austen" or that "Anon . . . was often a woman" (49).
	Characterizes the situation of gifted Elizabethan women as unhappy, 
	"a woman at strife against herself" (51), facing not only the 
	world’s indifference but hostility, as expressed in the words of 
	Mr. Oscar Browning [an actual person, a fellow at Cambridge]: 
	"’the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst 
	man’" (53).

Chapter Four  London; History of Women Writers, 16th to 19th Century
	Surveys writings of aristocratic writers Lady Winchelsea (Anne 
	Finch, a countess, 59-61) and Margaret of Newcastle (a duchess, 
	61-62) and argues that their talent is distorted by anger and 
	bitterness because of the "sneers and laughter" of male 
	contemporaries.  Presumes that only childless aristocrats with 
	understanding husbands would be able to write literature at that 
	time.  Praises the letters of a middle class woman, Dorothy 
	Osborne (62).   Acknowledges the accomplishments of Aphra Behn 
	(63-65), from whom she dates the "freedom of the mind" that 
	writers need, but who also "proved that money could be made by 
	writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities" 
	Speculates about why four major 19th century women writers wrote 
	novels, not poetry (Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot), relating 
	this to the circumstances of their writing in "the common sitting 
	room" (66).  Links Jane Austen to Shakespeare as a literary genius 
	(68), in contrast to Charlotte Bronte, who "had more genius in her 
	than Jane Austen," but whose rage makes her books "deformed and 
	twisted" (69).
	Contrasts male and female values, whereby books on war are judged 
	"important," while books on "the feelings of women in a drawing 
	room" are insignificant (74).  Only Jane Austen maintains the 
	artistic integrity to "write as women write, not as men write" 
	Calls for a women’s sentence (76-77), which Austen created and 
	which made her a better writer (though a lesser genius) than 
	Charlotte Bronte.  Suggests that genres also are gendered, and 
	that the novel alone was young enough to be adapted by women 
	writers (77-78).

Chapter Five  London, Chloe and Olivia
	Continues survey of library bookshelves, now
	in the 20th century, when "almost as many books [are] written by 
	women . . . as by men" (79) and not only novels.  
	Writes book review of imaginary novelist  "Mary Carmichael," in 
	whose first novel Life’s Adventures  "Chloe liked Olivia," thus 
	breaking not only the sentence but the expected sequence.  [The 
	lesbian idea here is indicated in the reference to Sir Chartres 
	Biron, the presiding magistrate at the Radclyffe Hall obscenity 
	trial going on at the time of the original Cambridge lectures.]  
	Praises Mary Carmichael for writing "as a woman, but as a woman 
	who has forgotten that she is a woman" (93).

Chapter Six  London, Androgynous Mind
	Opens with story of a man and woman meeting on the street and 
	getting into a taxicab, all observed from the narrator’s window 
	and interpreted as an image of the meeting of male and female in 
	the quest for "the unity of the mind" (97).  Cites Coleridge on 
	the androgyny of great minds, which she regards as the fusion of 
	the male and female parts of the mind (98).  
	Critiques imaginary novelist, "Mr. A," who writes with the 
	confidence and freedom of a man, but with a shadow across the 
	page "shaped something like the letter ‘I’" (99).  Mr. A. stands 
	for men who are "now writing only with the male side of their 
	brains" (mentions Galsworthy and Kipling).
	Critic "Mr. B." misses "the secret of perpetual life" because 
	"his mind seemed separated into different chambers" (101).  
	"Mary Beton ceases to speak" (105) and the narrator changes to 
	"my own person."  Closes with a peroration on women’s progress and 
	opportunities, and a call to let Shakespeare’s sister "live in you 
	and in me, and in many women who are not here tonight, for they 
	are washing up dishes and putting the children to bed" (113).

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