Woolf Handout

English 203

Dr. Fike


How does this book reflect the Modern period?


  1. Does the opening violate expectations?  How does it differ from conventional openings?  Who is Woolf’s audience?  Why is the book partly fictional?
  2. Why does the essay start with the word “But”?
  3. How do men write?  What is the convention that lectures, most of them by men, follow?  Do we get a “nugget” from Woolf?
  4. What does par. 1 set out as the focus/purpose of the essay?
  5. What does she count on the reader/listener to do?
  6. What two locations will she describe?  How are the names significant?
  7. What do you make of the name Woolf assumes? 
  8. What metaphor does she use for a thought?  What happens to it in par. 3?  Why?
  9. Whom does she encounter in par. 4?  What seems odd about this encounter?
  10. In par. 5, does she seem angry?  Cf. par. 16.
  11. In par. 5, how does she digress?
  12. What conclusion is she moving toward at the end of par. 5?
  13. What male convention is identified in par. 6, and what female convention does she introduce?
  14. Consider the excerpts from Tennyson and Christina Rossetti:  what are the differences between them?
  15. What is the purpose of the Manx cat?  What relationship does this image have to WWI?
  16. What is she talking about in par. 12?  And what point can you make about her missing the turn to Fernham?  See also page 38 top.
  17. Why the apparent change of seasons in par. 13?  Whom does she now encounter?  Different from the Beadle?
  18. How is the meal at Fernham different from the one at Oxbridge?  And what’s up with that?
  19. What points about money does she make in par. 16?
  20. In par. 19, does she make good on her promise to let readers make their own conclusions?
  21. In Chapter Two, what does Woolf say about the relationship between men and women?  What is the source of this attitude?
  22. What has saved the speaker from the fate of the average woman?
  23. Consider page 40:  "Moreover, in a hundred years, I thought,…women will have ceased to be the protected sex.  Logically they will take part in all the activities and exertions that were once denied them."  Is she right?
  24. What does Chapter Three say about the situation of women in Elizabethan England?  Is Woolf exaggerating?
  25. Comment on Woolf's description of Shakespeare's sister.
  26. Is it clear why Woolf thinks that women need money and a room of their own?
  27. How does Woolf account for Shakespeare's greatness on pages 56-57?



  1. Why was the novel a favorite form for women writers?  (67, 71, 77)


  1. How are women novelists limited?  (70-71)


  1. What does Woolf have to say about Jane Eyre?  (73)


  1. How is the novel a "fitting receptacle" for men who wish to write about women?  (83)


  1. What image do we get on 96 (Chapter 6, par. 2), and what does it suggest?  Cp. the fish in Chapter One.


  1. What is an androgynous mind, and what does Woolf mean by “man-womanly” and “woman-manly”?  (98, 104)


  1. Which male writers have androgynous minds?  (98, 103)


  1. Is it really true that women and men have different writing styles?  Is Woolf right or wrong?  (99)

    Discuss the following chart:

    Female                         Male


    Right brain                    Left brain

    Induction                      Deduction

    Process                        Product

    Concrete                      Abstract


  1. According to Woolf, what characterizes men's writing?  (99-101)


  1. Does Woolf blame one sex over the other?  (103)


  1. What’s the irony of the point Woolf makes?


  1. How does Woolf respond to the following two criticisms? 
    1. Page 105:  "No opinion has been expressed, you may say, upon the comparative merits of the sexes even as writers."
    2. Page 106:  "Next I think that you may object that in all this I have made too much of the importance of material things."


  1. How and why is Woolf’s style different in this section?

  41.  Woolf makes comments about men's portrayal of women in previous literature on pages