Three Guineas

Reception

Contemporary responses

Q. D. Leavis (literary critic) wrote a scathing critique of Three Guineas shortly after its publication in 1938. She denounces the essay because it is only concerned with 'the daughters of educated men', seeing Woolf's criticisms as irrelevant to most women because her wealth and aristocratic ancestry means she is 'insulated by class'.[6] Elsewhere Three Guineas was better received. Woolf reports a favorable response in her diary of 7 May 1938. "I am pleased this morning because Lady Rhonda writes that she is profoundly excited and moved by Three Guineas. Theo Bosanquet, who has a review copy, read her extracts. And she thinks it may have a great effect, and signs herself my grateful outsider."[2]: 93 

Recent responses

The views expressed in Three Guineas have been described as feminist, pacifist, anti-fascist, and anti-imperialist.[7] Feminist historian Jill Liddington has praised Three Guineas as "an eloquent and impish attack on patriarchal structures", notes how the book puts forward the argument that "men's power under patriarchy dovetails with militarism", and claims "Three Guineas offers an important bridge between the earlier feminist flowering and the later 1980s wave of a women's peace movement".[7]

In 2002, City Journal published a critique of Three Guineas by the conservative essayist Theodore Dalrymple, "The Rage of Virginia Woolf" (later reprinted in Dalrymple's anthology, Our Culture, What's Left of It), in which Dalrymple contended that the book is "a locus classicus of self-pity and victimhood as a genre in itself" and that "the book might be better titled: How to Be Privileged and Yet Feel Extremely Aggrieved".[8] In response, Woolf scholar Elizabeth Shih defended Three Guineas and claimed Dalrymple's article was full of "ad hominem moments".[9] Shih argued that Dalrymple "obtusely and consistently misreads Woolf's hyperbole", interpreting literally Woolf's comments about burning male-dominated colleges, and Woolf's likening women using their sexuality to control men to prostitution.[9] Shih also criticised Dalrymple's attacks on Woolf's anti-militarism and her calls for working-class education.[9] Shih suggested Dalrymple's objection to Three Guineas was due to his opposition to Woolf's "politicization of the private lives of women".[9]


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