Updated August 30, 2000 (but no new entries)
Created July 8, 1997
The MLA bibliography for 1963 through Feb. 1997 lists 71 entries, reduced to 57 by eliminating dissertations and foreign language publications. I selected 29 of these for review, including 13 titles inter-library loaned. The following 25 annotated entries seemed most useful for study of Room, and give a sense of the chief directions Woolf scholars have taken with this landmark text. Unless otherwise indicated, these are available at the Salmon Library. Interlibrary loan books (marked ILL) are available in my office through about July 21. Abbott, Reginald. "Birds Don't Sing in Greek: Virginia Woolf and 'The Plumage Bill.'" Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations. Ed. Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1995. 263-89. Woolf’s 1000-word essay against the Plumage Bill of 1920 (to ban importation of exotic feathers) "is not just Woolf’s ‘earliest feminist polemic’ but the direct prototype of the longer, more developed works, not only in tone but also in the issues that it raises" (265). ILL Boehm, Beth A. "Fact, Fiction, and Metafiction: Blurred Gen(d)res in Orlando and A Room of One's Own." Journal of Narrative Technique 22:3 (1992): 191-204. VW interrupted work on Orlando to write and deliver the lectures later revised as Room. Boehm compares the first published version, which is rather conventional ("Women and Fiction" published in The Forum in March 1929), to the book version, which, like Orlando, blurs genre boundaries and uses both fun and fantasy to question patriarchal facts and values. See also Marcus, "’Taking the Bull by the Udders.’ " Burt, John. "Irreconcilable Habits of Thought in A Room of One's Own and To the Lighthouse." ELH 49.4 (1982): 889-907. Rpt. Bloom 191-206. Links the arguments of Room to the themes of Lighthouse as examples of Keatsian negative capability. Includes analytical summary of the argument of Room, showing it to have two unreconcilable arguments, one progressive, the other nostalgic for the past, and concluding that the essay is not an argument but "a portrayal of how a mind attempts to come to terms with its world" (197). Courington, Chella: "Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker: Family as Metaphor in the Personal Essay." Hussey and Neverow 239-45. Compares Room to Walker’s "In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens" and "Beauty" as using similar techniques of the personal essay. ILL Ezell, Margaret J.M. "The Myth of Judith Shakespeare: Creating the Canon of Women's Literature." New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 21.3 (1990): 579-592. Shows how modern anthologies following Room’s lead about the absence of women writers before 1800 perpetuate a false history that should be rewritten to give greater attention to hundreds of women writing in the 16-17th centuries. Fernald, Anne: "A Room, A Child, A Mind of One's Own: Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker and Feminist Personal Criticism." Hussey and Neverow 245-51. Compares Room to Walker’s "Beyond the Peacock" and "In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens" to show the two writers’ affinities and that both "define the extreme of feminist personal criticism, demonstrating its power and flexibility as well as its limits" (246). ILL Fernald, Anne. "A Room of One's Own, Personal Criticism, and the Essay." Twentieth Century Literature, 40.2 (1994): 165-89. Places Room in the context of modern critics like Jane Tompkins and Jane Gallop, who use autobiographical material in scholarly writing (hence "personal criticism"). Fernald argues that Woolf uses the personal "to focus the complexity of the idea," and as such is more like T.S. Eliot than Tompkins or Gallop, who she sees as more interested in creating a distinctive persona than in the ideas it might reveal. See also Woolf’s "The Modern Essay" on Max Beerbohm and the personal in criticism (in The Common Reader. First Series). Folsom, Marcia McClintock. "Gallant Red Brick and Plain China: Teaching A Room of One's Own." College English 45.3 (1983): 254-262. The author uses Room as the critical basis for a course on "Women in Literature." The article provides detail on other texts used and how she links them to the arguments and narrative techniques of Room. Fox, Alice. "Literary Allusion as Feminist Criticism in A Room of One's Own." Philological Quarterly. 63.2 (1984): 145-161. Places Room in the context of a 1920 exchange of letters to the editor between Woolf and Bloomsbury friend Desmond MacCarthy, who argued that there were no great women writers. Fox links this to literary allusions to Milton, Swinburne, Gray’s "Elegy," and the "Ballad of Mary Hamilton." Hamilton, James F. "Woolf's A Room of One's Own." Explicator 39.1 (1981): 4-6. Interprets the tailless cat, not as an image of penis envy or castration, nor as a "complex," but as a feeling of inadequacy which can be removed through, e.g., money that evens up the stakes for women and men. Hussey, Mark, and Vara Neverow, eds. Virginia Woolf: Emerging Perspectives. New York : Pace UP, 1994. ILL (various entries cross-referenced) Jones, Ellen Carol. "Androgynous Vision and Artistic Process in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own." Critical Essays on Virginia Woolf. Ed. Morris Beja. Boston : Hall, 1985. 227-239. Woolf treats art as a process of "discovery and disentanglement" that requires an androgynous "synthesizing of subject and object into an artistic whole" (229). ILL Kamuf, Peggy. "Penelope at Work: Interruptions in A Room of One's Own." Novel 16.1 (1982): 5-18. Using The Odyssey and Focault in a deconstructive reading of the zig-zag quality of the narrative, Kamuf emphasizes three "moments . . . where interruption marks the scene of writing" (10): 1) when the scholar enters the nursery or drawing room ; 2) the reference to Jane Austen writing in the common sitting room; 3) when "one goes into the room—" . Marcus, Jane. "Critical Response, I: Quentin's Bogey." Critical Inquiry 11.3 (1985): 486-497. Links Woolf’s use of "bogey" to the work of Greek scholar Jane Harrison in an argument that the bogey refers to English patriarchal culture, not to Milton himself. Critiques biographer Quentin Bell for creating a Woolf bogey that is "a fragile, unstable, hysterical suicide" (489), then challenges Bell’s view of Marcus herself and of Woolf. Bell’s reply follows. Marcus, Jane. "Liberty, Sorority, Misogyny." The Representation of Women in Fiction. Ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun and Margaret R. Higonnet. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins UP, 1983. 60-97. Rpt. in Marcus’s Virginia Woolf and the Language of Patriarchy (1987). Room is Woolf’s attempt to "catapult women into history with a goal of "female liberty, equality, and sorority" that requires the exclusion of men. Marcus reads Room and Three Guineas in the context of Woolf’s biography, particularly women against whom she rebelled (her mother, Julia Stephen; her aunt Caroline Emilia Stephen; her first cousin Katherine Stephen, principal of Newnham College), all of whom collaborated in their own oppression. Repeats many arguments from Marcus’s other articles on Room (e.g., re Radclyffe Hall, Jane Harrison, and J.K. Stephen). Marcus, Jane. "Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf and the Language of Patriarchy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 163-87. A much shorter version is published as "Sapphistory: The Woolf and the Well." Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions. Ed. Karla Jay, Joanne Glasgow, and Catharine R. Stimpson. New York : New York UP, 1990. 164 179. Marcus develops two separate arguments, one about the Well of Loneliness trial and another about Greek scholar Jane Harrison ("the great J—H—" Room 17) and misogynist Oscar Browning (Room, chap. 3). 1) Reads Room in relation to the obscenity trial against Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, which was being tried when Woolf wrote Room. Identifies Judith Shakespeare with Hall (who was actually descended from Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna Hall) as the symbol of the oppressed woman artist, and Room’s fictional narrator (Mary Hamilton) with Mary Llewelyn (the lover of Hall’s main character, Stephen Gordon). "Sapphistory" is Marcus’s term for the "rhetorical seduction" of the woman reader by the woman writer which Woolf achieves here. 2) By attacking Oscar Browning ("the "philosophical father" of such gay Bloomsbury friends as Forster and Strachey), Woolf attacks homosexual misogyny within her own circle and England generally. Browning (usually known as "O.B.") was a fellow of King’s College Cambridge who had been fired from Eton, presumably because of improper relations with boys. Giving his full name and Jane Harrison’s initials reverses the power relations. Marcus, Jane. "Still Practice, A/Wrested Alphabet: Toward a Feminist Aesthetic." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 3.1-2 (1984): 79-97. Rpt. Feminist Issues in Literary Scholarship. Ed. Shari Benstock. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 79-97. Marcus asserts that "A Room of One’s Own is the first modern text of feminist criticism, the model in both theory and practice, of a specifically socialist feminist criticism"(79 Benstock). Marcus derives a critical interpretive practice of reading signs, as in dumb show ("still practice") based on Woolf’s use of the Procne and Philomel myth in Between the Acts, and Shakespeare’s use of it in Titus Andronicus. Marcus links both to the woman artist’s fear of directly challenging patriarchy, and argues that Woolf regarded women as more democratic readers, writers, and listeners than men. Marcus critiques deconstructive readings of Woolf by major critics Peggy Kamuf (see above) and Gayatri Spivak because they "assert themselves as superior and isolated from their subject" (89) and by using "father-guides" (Derrida, Freud, Foucault, Descartes) "reinforce patriarchal authority" (89). They should take Woolf’s advice in Room and avoid male mentors. Marcus, Jane. "'Taking the Bull by the Udders': Sexual Difference in Virginia Woolf: A Conspiracy Theory." Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury: A Centenary Celebration. Ed. Jane Marcus. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 146 169. Originally published in Marcus’s Virginia Woolf and the Language of Patriarchy (1987). This article is loaded with biographical and textual detail, and elaborate arguments by analogy. Marcus 1) reads a subversive subtext in Room wherein Shakespeare’s next sister will come from the lower classes; 2) uses the Procne/Philomel myth to show Woolf speaking for her attacked sisters (real and figurative); castrating/silencing the bull is analogous to cutting out Philomel’s tongue; see also Marcus’s "Still Practice" for an elaboration of this); 3) argues that Woolf deconstructs the lecture as a patriarchal form, turning it into a three sided conversation between women (writer/speaker reader audience), modeled on the unconventional Greek scholar Jane Harrison ("the heroine of this text"); 4) explores the fishing metaphor in Room and "Professions for Women" (a speech given in January 1931 that was part of the original conception The Years, and was posthumously published in The Pargiters); 5) compares Room to Woolf’s unsuccessful story "A Woman’s College from Outside" (1926), which "fails to share narration with her subject and her audience" (159); and 6) critiques male critics J. Hillis Miller and Geoffrey Hartman for misreading the scene of a man and woman getting into a taxi (chap. 6) and failing to see the entire text as "one of the strongest feminist statements of maleness [and heterosexuality] as other" (160). The "bull by the udders" phrase comes from a Woolf letter; Marcus interprets it as a "maternal male" like Leonard Woolf. Neverow, Vara . "Reading A Room of One's Own as a Model of Composition Theory." Hussey and Neverow 58-64. Substituting "student" where Woolf uses "woman," Nemerov shows how Room "can be read as a student-centered approach to composition theory . . . [that] focuses on turning writing anxiety into empowerment" (58). ILL Rosenbaum, S. P. " The Manuscript Versions of A Room of One's Own." Virginia Woolf Miscellany 38 (1991): 4. ILL Rosenbaum, S.P., ed. Virginia Woolf/Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of A Room of One's Own. Oxford : Blackwell, 1992. Rosenbaum discovered the original handwritten manuscript of Room misidentified in the Fitzwilliam Museum (in Cambridge), 100 pages (5 chapters) titled Women & Fiction, dated March and April 1929. Rosenbaum has identified two separate manuscripts here that probably reflect different drafts, though they fit together as one. Rosenbaum’s introduction tracks the composition from the Cambridge lectures of 1928 (for which no manuscripts survive), through the March 1929 Forum article "Women and Fiction" to a detailed analysis of the manuscript printed here, which is also compared to the typescript version (archived at Monk’s House). ILL Rosenman, Ellen. "A Fish on the Line: Desire, Repression, and the Law of the Father in A Room of One's Own." Hussey and Neverow 272-77. Links a passage in "A Sketch of the Past" (in which Leslie Stephen tells Virginia he doesn’t like to see fish caught) to the politicized fishing metaphor in Room, arguing that Woolf resolves her conflicts about embodiment by disembodying, and hence losing the fish. ILL Rosenman, Ellen Bayuk: "Sexual Identity and A Room of One's Own: 'Secret Economies' in Virginia Woolf's Feminist Discourse." Signs 14:3 ( 1989): 634-650. Historicist reading of what it meant to have a "lesbian identity" in the 1920s and analysis of a lesbian passage excised from the published draft of Room (an earlier version of the "Chloe liked Olivia" section). Links the writing of Room to the Well of Loneliness obscenity trial. In September 1929, Woolf and others wrote in protest of the novel’s being banned; in October she gave the Room lectures; the trial was in November. Rosenman argues that Woolf changed the passage because she did not want to link herself to Hall’s male identified version of the lesbian as a man trapped in a woman’s body. Schwartz, Beth C. "Thinking Back through Our Mothers: Virginia Woolf Reads Shakespeare." ELH 58.3 (1991): 721-46. Argues that Woolf presents a "maternal muse," especially in Orlando, A Room of One’s Own, and The Waves, a muse that exemplifies androgynous qualities of mind to which Woolf thinks women writers should aspire. Schwartz links Shakespeare to this maternal muse by tracking Woolf’s praise of anonymity (especially in her last unfinished work "Anon"), a quality Woolf sees often in Shakespeare. By linking the maternal with a male figure, Woolf challenges the belief that woman is to nature as man is to culture. Squier, Susan, "Mirroring and Mothering: Reflections on the Mirror Encounter Metaphor in Virginia Woolf's Works." Twentieth Century Literature 27.3 (1981): 272-288. Examines mirror scenes in Mrs. Dalloway, The Voyage Out, "A Sketch of the Past," and A Room of One’s Own, distinguishing woman-mirror scenes (Dalloway, Voyage) from man and woman-as-mirror scenes (Room) and various ways mirrors "can nurture or deplete an individual’s sense of self" (287). Links Room to "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid" in resolving women’s complicity in their role as the magnifier and in women’s monopoly on the role of mother. Stimpson, Catharine R. "Woolf’s Room, Our Project: The Building of Feminist Criticism." The Future of Literary Theory. Ed. Ralph Cohen. New York: Routledge, 1989. 129-43. Rpt. Rachel Bowlby, ed. Virginia Woolf. London: Longman, 1992. 162-79. ILL. Stimson uses Room as the center of an analysis of current feminist criticism, of which Woolf "is a major architect and designer" (162). She argues that "Woolf’s swerving, dancing, fleeing sets of maneuvers between homosexuality and heterosexuality prefigure three centers of gravity in feminist criticism: . . . women’s interests; . . . heterosexual interests; . . . male dominance" (163). Thompson, Nicola. "Some Theories of One's Own: Orlando and the Novel." Studies in the Novel 25:3 (1993): 306-17. Links Room to Orlando (written at the same time) in regard to the theme of gender and literature.