Wollstonecraft in Europe: A Revisionist Reception History, 1792-1904
History of European Ideas (October 2012)
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 Last revised: 28 Nov 2012
Date Written: June 23, 2012
It has often been repeated that Wollstonecraft was not read for a century after her death in 1797 due to the negative impact of her husband William Godwin’s 'Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman' (1798) on her posthumous reputation. By providing the first full-scale reception history of Wollstonecraft in continental Europe in the long nineteenth century — drawing on rare book research, translations of understudied primary sources, and Wollstonecraft scholarship from the nineteenth century to the present — this article applies a revised Rezeptionsgeschichte approach to tracing her intellectual influence on the woman question and organized feminism in Europe. Although the 'Memoirs' and post-revolutionary politics everywhere dampened and even drove underground the reception of her persona and ideas in the first decades of the nineteenth century, Wollstonecraft’s reception in nineteenth-century continental Europe, like the United States, was more positive and sustained in comparison to the public backlash she faced as a 'fallen woman' in her homeland of Britain through the bulk of the Victorian era.
Keywords: Wollstonecraft, Women's Rights, Feminism, Comparative Political Thought, Reception History, Europe
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