EDGEcondition - vol.03 - Art & Architecture

Page 25

Virginia Woolf by GEORGE CHARLES BERESFORD, 1902

A Room of One’s Own addresses gender inequality, and the nature of that inequality in literature. Woolf uses architectural descriptions, structures and internal spaces throughout to represent the situation of women. She states that a woman must have ‘a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ (Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Norton Vol.2 6th ed. p. 1927 ) and she laments how difficult it is for women to achieve this. As Woolf walks through the ‘courts and quadrangles of Oxbridge’ she becomes aware of a change in the space around her. She feels encapsulated by glass, a material which would soon be favoured by modernist designers and architects. It envelops her in a

small, yet fragile, bubble of clarity: Strolling through those colleges past those ancient halls the roughness of the present seemed smoothed away; the body seemed contained in a miraculous glass cabinet through which no sound could penetrate, and the mind freed from any contact with the facts. (Ibid, p. 1918) Of course, this bubble is shattered when she is refused entry to the library on account of her sex, and when she is chased off the grass: only male Fellows and Scholars are allowed right of way across the turf. Woolf is talking both literally and metaphorically about inequality when she says that ‘gate

after gate seemed to close with gentle finality behind me.’ However, she is emboldened by her experience and vows, ‘there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’(Ibid, p. 1918) Woolf links ‘freedom of mind’ with interior space in her 1921 sketch, The Mark on the Wall: I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard, separate facts. (Woolf, Norton, p. 1918)