Saturday, October 31, 2009

SA #13: A Room of One's Own, continued

1. At the opening of Chapter 2, Woolf describes the neighborhood outside the British Museum:
The usual hoarse-voiced men paraded the streets with plants on barrows. Some shouted; others sang. London was like a workshop. London was like a machine. We were all being shot backwards and forwards on this plain foundation to make some pattern. The British Museum was another department of the factory. (26)
This brief description, like many other moments in A Room of One's Own, doesn't seem to be specifically about women and fiction. So what, in your opinion, is its function in the text?

2. When the narrator goes to the British Museum, she starts drawing a Professor von X:
Drawing pictures was an idle way of finishing an unprofitable morning's work. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. A very elementary exercise in psychology, not to be dignified by the name of psycho-analysis, showed me, on looking at my notebook, that the sketch of the angry professor had been made in anger. Anger had snatched my pencil while I dreamt. But what was anger doing there?" (31)

(a) Describe the tone of this passage.

(b) In light of this passage and the pages that follow it, what does Woolf think of anger? How does anger affect one's ability to produce knowledge or to write fiction? Why?

3. In Chapter 3, Woolf offers her famous thought-experiment, the "Shakespeare's sister" scenario. In a previous class that I taught, many students thought that the scenario need not have concluded in the way that Woolf concludes it, because Judith could have simply dressed up as a man. Do you agree? In general, does cross-dressing strike you as a viable way to escape restrictive gender roles?

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