x9: Style and Gender
Mapping the First Chapter of A Room of One’s Own
But in order to make some amends I am going to do what I can to show you how I arrived at this opinion about the room and the money. (Woolf 4)
¶1 (pp. 2–4)
- Subject: What is it about?
- Slant: What does Woolf have to say about the topic? What’s her perspective?
- Method: How does she develop her “train of thought”?
- Tone: What stance does she take toward her readers?
Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge
In pairs: Please draft a couple of sentence in which you address the above questions in relation to the passage you’ve been assigned. Also, try to situate the passage you’re working with in the context of the chapter. How does it pick up on what has been said right before it and how does it lead into what follows? Please email the sentences to me.
- ¶ 2–4 (pp. 5–8): Becca & Lia
- ¶5 (pp. 8–10): Rebecca & Anna
- ¶6–8 (pp. 10–13): Avery & Shannon
- ¶9–11 (pp. 13–17): Alex & Kate
- ¶12 (pp.17–20): Deb, Ben, & John
- ¶13–14 (pp. 20–24): Whole class
Newnham College, Cambridge
- Wed, 4/04, class: Finish Woolf
- Wed, 4/04, class: Subject (text) and slant for e2
- Friday, 4/06, 9:00 am: Post x9 to Dropbox
Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has often been read as a call for a new sort of women’s writing, a new feminist mode of argument. And yet there seem some problems with looking at A Room this way. First, Woolf insists throughout her essay that she has no real “conclusion” to offer about women and writing, that at best she can offer an “opinion about one minor point”—and that point seems to have as much to do with money as gender (4). Second, when she does finally turn directly to the question of how the gender of a writer might affect her work, Woolf seems to advocate something she calls an “androgynous” or “man-womanly” style (98-104). And, third, even if she does at points hint at an interest in “the development by the average woman of a prose style completely expressive of her mind” (95), Woolf offers no rules or advice for how to achieve such a style.
At the same time I find it hard to escape the sense that this is a book that talks about writing in ways that feel different from Strunk and White, or Orwell, or Fish. I’d thus like you to write a brief essay in which you try to pin down this difference in tone, in emphasis. I’d also like you to come to some (perhaps tentative) conclusion about whether this difference has anything to do with gender. In doing so, I encourage you to consider not only what Woolf has to say, but how she structures her sentences and chapters. Might it be argued that in A Room Woolf enacts a different sort of writing?
Or perhaps not. You might feel that Woolf doesn’t offer a view of style that differs much from those of the men we’ve read so far. If so, draw the connections between them. Whatever stance you take, your task will be to add to what we have had to say about prose style so far by noting what changes when the person whose views on the subject we are discussing is, for the first time this semester, a woman.
Please post your essay to Dropbox by 9:00 am on Fri, 4/06.