Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) has fed almost a century of work on the material conditions of early modern women’s lives and their modes of expression. But as Diane Purkiss’s essay in the Times Literary Supplement in February 2019 makes all too clear, there are collateral dangers in the tenacity of Woolf’s essay as the enduring narrative for early modern women’s writing, with its implications of isolation and quietude, and separate spheres, interests, and influences. This essay offers an alternative metaphor, one of “a small room with large windows,” for the global scholarly field that is early modern women’s writing. It questions narratives of critical backwardness and belatedness, and looks instead to the positive achievements and influences of feminist scholarship in the last several decades. It argues that the metaphors we use to describe our scholarship matter: they contest and construct “which world we want: the one that already exists, or the one that might,” to borrow the words of Amia Srinivasan. It suggests the need to keep building on what has already been achieved and to keep shifting our standpoints and our perspectives, seeking “to recognize / The whole three hundred and sixty degrees” of early modern experience and expression.
Ross, Sarah C.E.
"A Small Room with Large Windows,"
Criticism: Vol. 63
, Article 16.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol63/iss1/16