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Quotes

Quote #1

Sex and its nature might well attract doctors and biologists, but what was surprising and difficult of explanation was the fact that sex—woman, that is to say—also attracts agreeable essayists, light-fingered novelists, young men who have taken the M.A. degree; men who have taken no degree; men who have no apparent qualification save that they are not women. (2.2)

Everyone's a critic, right? But Woolf raises a good point: how come women aren't qualified to write about women, if men seem to think they have every right to talk about them?

Quote #2

Indeed, if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance [...] But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten, and flung about the room. (3.3)

Yeah, we can't exactly picture Cleopatra doing the household mending. Woolf's starting to get at the difference between women as objects that men are writing about and how they might have felt themselves, as subjects.

Quote #3

When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, of a suppressed poet. (3.8)

This is a funny way to think of history: Woolf isn't looking for evidence that women writers were there, but instead showing us where they could have been. It makes a good story—but we wouldn't try it in history class.

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