July Books 2) A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee's life of the poet. She died young--alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh.
I wish I had read this twenty years ago, or perhaps better twenty-five years ago when I was still a Cambridge undergraduate myself. I wish, indeed, that Cambridge would make it compulsory consciousness-raising reading for all students (and perhaps academic staff too). It is a tremendous, passionate, witty and forensic analysis of the barriers faced women who try to get anywhere in literature, or indeed in almost any other way of life. One of the great feminist texts, and at 112 pages mercifully succinct.