What did you have for breakfast this morning? Last night's pizza and a flat coke? A tasty bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar? For Woolf, these are really important questions. "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well," she writes, "if one has not dined well" (1.26). A big part of the first chapter of A Room of One's Own is devoted long descriptions of two meals: one at the ritzy all-male university of Oxbridge and the other at the shabby all-women's college, Fernham. While Oxbridge is luxurious and locked up tight, like a bank or a private club, Fernham is accessible to anyone who walks in, even though they can only offer people meals of stringy beef and prunes. Woolf builds the whole argument of the book around the differences between these two places.
Questions About Contrasting Regions: Oxbridge and Fernham
Why so much emphasis on the meals? Did Woolf originally deliver this lecture on The Food Network?
How does Woolf use her language and syntax to give you an idea of Oxbridge's luxury? How does she convey Fernham's poverty?
Is it important that Woolf keeps using the word "flowing" in her descriptions of Oxbridge? Why or why not?
If there's a relationship between good food and good thinking, could you just go out to a fancy restaurant instead of studying for an exam?
What's the benefit of being stuck in a "miraculous glass cabinet" as you stroll through the Oxbridge campus (1.4)?
Chew on This
Fernham seems like an awful place, yet when the narrator arrives at Fernham, she lovingly describes the overgrown beauty of the campus gardens. The Fernham campus, with its overgrown, unlocked gardens, is a symbol for the positive side of women's educational and intellectual situation.
Woolf places too much emphasis on food and luxury; it's possible (maybe even easier) to make good art without having spent hours at a fancy lunch.