Mary Wollstonecraft : a cultural history of a Vindication of the Rights of Women.
The thesis uses poststructuralist feminist theories in
conjunction with cultural history to challenge the common
feminist suspicion of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of
the Rights of Woman and propose instead a reading that is historically
specific and sympathetic.
To bring present-day theories to bear on past texts
implicitly raises as an issue the question of reading the
past. Part One of the thesis explicitly addresses this
question. It examines debates that occurred in the lQ70s
over the relationship between narrative an~ history
alongside postmodernist interventions in the question of
history and explores their implications for what a
feminist cultural history might look like.
The following~ three chapters silently but
consistently allude to the questions of history raised in
the opening chapter. These are: how do present-day
knowledge's and theoretical projects shape the way we
(re)read the past? What is the relationship between the
past and the present? Where are past meanings, for
example, of femininity produced? Each chapter examines
how different editions of a Vindication of the Rights of
Woman printed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
invite readers to understand what it means to be feminine,
feminist and female and to show in consequence how the
meaning of woman, and relatedly of a Vindication, is
historically changing and perpetually in struggle.
Part Two of the thesis comprises three chapters where
feminist poststructuralist theories are used to reread a
Vindication of the rights ~ Woman, ~ Wrongs of Woman:
~ Maria and Letters Written during ~ Short Residence in
Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The readings enter into a
dialogue with each other on the central question of the
relationship between gender, genre and style. They are
not offered as definitive interpretations. Rather, their
engagement with issues of language, meaning and gender
ands to and puts into process the cultural history given
in Part One.