“A Room of One’s Own” explains many aspects of what is wrong with men in the time period that it is set. A lot of wrongdoings, misrepresentations, and abuse are mentioned. I would like to play devils advocate on this part and talk of bias. While I know that these problems undeniably existed and some on the levels described, was the writers point of view glorifying the actuality of events? Were/are all men truly as bad as described?
Social Inequality and Money
Throughout the first chapter of Virginia Woolf’s novel, we can clearly see the prevalence of social inequality. In early 20th Century Europe, Men were afforded many more privileges than women. This can be seen many times throughout chapter one. First the narrator is told by a Beadle, that she cannot be relaxing on the grass. This is only allowed for university scholars who were all men. Additionally, the narrator is not allowed to enter the university library without being accompanied by a man. This inequality is paired with the concept of hampering women’s creativity in writing fiction. As they are constantly told by men what to do. Later in the chapter, the narrator mentions Mary Seton, and how learning “the great art of making money” (Woolf 21), could have allowed them to live a much more comfortable life. Money would emulate the lifestyle of Oxbridge University, the school only for males. Additionally, money is required for physical infrastructure, and it is mentioned that women require “a room of one’s own” (Woolf 5) for creativity. Is money the ultimate equalizer in a world of social stratification?
The Bust of the Emperor- Count Morstin’s Activism
While reading “The Bust of the Emperor”, I was pleasantly surprised by the description of Count Morstin and his rejection of traditional nationality, which in turn highlighted his status as a “true aristocrat”. What surprised me more was his patronage to the people in the area despite not identifying with nationalities of those around him. In particular, I found it interesting that the Count was socially active and helped to obtain “tax reductions”, “forward petitions for clemency”, “obtain reduced sentences for innocent or too harshly punished prisoners”, among other things with his high authority (Roth, 230). These acts of social and political justice reflect well on the Count and provide great aid to struggling people of a lower socio-economic standing. I felt that this message related to the current political atmosphere of the United States and how the social activism of some is paving the way for a better future for others, but even so, significant change has yet to be made. This raises the question: Does the social and political activism of just one person have the power to institute change throughout society?
The Bust of an Emperor- Naomi Hanna
After the war, the village that Count Morstin called home had changed from what he once knew. Count was questioning whether or not the village was the same place, and if he belonged there still. Count Morstin even went as far to say “he has lost his true home”(Roth, 235). Count decided that he had to move on from the place he used to call home. Even though the village is still technically the same place(physically) just with a different atmosphere, I was wondering if he was maybe being dramatic or took it to the extreme by completely leaving the village? I understand why he was upset to an extent, but it still is the same place physically.
Unlearning Bourgeoise Culture
I think P. I. Lebedev-Polianskii’s “Revolution and the Cultural Tasks of the Proletariat” is a really fascinating read, both on its own and in the way its content interacts with that of Anna Litveiko’s “In 1917” and Lenin’s “Communism is Soviet Power + Electrification of the Whole Country” speech. In the case of the former, Lebedev-Polianskii admits:
“We all here consider ourselves socialists, but if each of us were to analyze his own life, he would find in himself much that was bourgeois. This is our misfortune, and it is an inevitable one. Bourgeois culture has enmeshed us for many years, and it is too difficult for our generation to break the net right away with one burst” (Lebedev-Polianskii).
This directly correlates to some of the feelings Litveiko struggles with as a young woman, like when she compares herself to the “unkempt…true revolutionary” and examines her own unwillingness to part with material beautifiers like ribbons and braids (Litveiko 58). I think this is a really interesting point of contention, and one that makes me wonder about the validity of Lebedev-Polianskii’s assumption that this is a purely nurtured phenomenon. Do you think this gravitation towards “bourgeois” tendencies is something that is fostered by a capitalist environment? Or do you think there is some natural inclination involved? To what extent is it possible to unlearn those feelings/preferences?
I also think Lenin’s speech has some relevance here–how does this concept of “enlightenment” fit into this unlearning? In what ways does Lenin’s speech support and reject Lebedev-Polianskii’s ideas about the Proletkult?
Communism is Soviet Power + Electrification of the Whole Country
In Lenin’s speech, he speaks of the electrification of Russia and the opportunities it presents as a “stronghold of enlightenment”. He says that his plans for electrification will be constantly “improved, elaborated, perfected, and modified”. In the current state of Russia and its government in the late 1910’s, could this claim be fulfilled as he says it will be?
The Success of Radical Extremism
After reading In The Shadow of Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women, I’ve had a rather interesting realization. It would seem that extremist views are most effective in instituting change within a society. People rally behind extremist views with such zeal and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, moderation fails to capture people’s attention. This can be seen with The Bolsheviks and The Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were extremist and radical, they wanted “to fight the Bourgeoisies to the end” (Fitzpatrick and Slezkine 53). On the other hand The Mensheviks were much less radical and moderate, they wanted to bring about progressive change whilst working with the Bourgeoisies. However, The Mensheviks captured a much smaller followership than The Bolsheviks. Extremism can be very dangerous as it lacks tolerance and often resolves to violence. My question for thought is this: Is extremist views more effective than moderate views for recruiting followers and advocating for change? Is extremism better?
How This Class Meets (Modality)
On Tuesdays, on campus students will meet in the classroom (Burnett 102), while remote students will join us via Zoom. On Thursdays, we will all meet together on Zoom. Any time you are joining via Zoom, this is the link:
If you are coming to my Office Hours, click here.
Welcome to HIS 270: Europe’s Long Twentieth Century. I’m glad we are taking this journey together this semester. This WordPress site will be our home base. Here, you can find the Syllabus, assigned Reading + Viewing materials, Blog Post Schedule and Discussion Leadership Schedule, all Assignments, and some helpful Writing Resources. The most important thing you will find here is our Blog, which we will build together and use to shape our conversations. Please see the syllabus for details and feel free to ask me if you have any questions. You can always reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.