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Author

Grace Pollock

Date of Award

9-2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Supervisor

Peter Walmsley

Language

English

Abstract

This thesis examines discursive constructions of the subject in Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Demmark (1796) and how the gendering of cultural discourses impacts the narrator's identity. Frequently read as a proto-Romantic text, the Scandinavian Letters actually narrativize the clash between the dominant rationalism of modem capitalist society and the aesthetic and moral philosophies of the eighteenth-century 'cult of sensibility.' The intersection of discourses generates a gender matrix out of which emerges a fragmented writing subject who moves between a masculine observing 'self' and a feminine objectified 'other,' focusing alternately on outward gazing eyes and inwardly contemplative I's. This vacillation coincides with the narrator's ambivalence, produced by ideologies of sexual and cultural difference and, in tum, producing the dialectical movement between desire and disavowal manifest in the Letters' melancholy form and content. Sites of intertextuality reflect the melancholic subject's divided psychology, which, despite being constituted in and by 'naturalized' discourses of difference, reveals the constructedness of gender/sex and the limitations of compulsory heterosexuality.

McMaster University Library

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