Poetry In Virginia Woolf's A Room Of One's Own

2536 words - 10 pages

Poetry in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own

According to Laurence Perrine, author of Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, "poetry is as universal as language and almost as ancient"; however, "people have always been more successful at appreciating poetry than at defining it" (517). Perrine initially defines poetry as "a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language" (517). After defining literature as writing concerned with experience which allows us to imaginatively participate in it (518-19), Perrine adds, "poetry takes all life as its province" (522); no sharp distinction between poetry and other forms of imaginative literature exists (523); and "poetry . . . is a kind of multidimensional language" because it appeals not only to our intelligence but also to "our senses, emotions, and imagination." Perrine points out that "poetry achieves its extra dimensions . . . by drawing more consistently than does ordinary language on a number of language resources, none of which is peculiar to poetry." Finally, Perrine asserts "it [poetry] must be an organism whose every part serves a useful purpose and cooperates with every other part to preserve and express the life that is within it" (524). Perrine states that poetry "has been regarded as something central to existence, something having unique value to the fully realized life, something we are better off for having and spiritually impoverished without" (517). Because mankind holds poetry in high regard, Virginia Woolf uses male versus female success in writing it as the basis of comparison in A Room of One's Own, her 1928 essay that examines the struggle of women for acceptance and esteem as writers. According to Woolf, rather than being drawn to the novel, "the original impulse [in women] was to poetry" ( 66) -- she cites Sappho, Lady Winchilsea, and Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, as examples; however, "poetry depends on intellectual freedom," a state not possible for women without independent wealth and privacy (108). In A Room of One's Own, Woolf, who claims that the poetry in women is still denied outlet (77), creates memorable scenes in the essay by employing poetic techniques such as figurative language, musical devices, and rhythm and meter.

Woolf's effective use of figurative language involves the reader in scenes portraying the educational discrimination still suffered by women. Perrine explains figurative language as "language that cannot be taken literally (or should not be taken literally only)" (571). Woolf's figurative language includes metaphors, implicit comparisons between two things essentially unlike" (1463); similes, explicit comparisons between two things essentially unlike (1463); personifications, attributing human characteristics to an animal, object, or concept (1462); and metonymy, some significant aspect or detail of an experience is used to represent the whole of experience (1461). Woolf...

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