Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
As a paradigmatic text in the trajectory of West em liberal feminism, Wollstonecraft's A Vindication if the Rights if Woman (1792) is routinely analysed primarily for its gendered implications. In a departure from conventional analyses, this reading of Wollstonecraft's feminist polemic attends to the heterogeneity that is constitutive of identity by focusing on how issues of gender, as well as race, class, nation, and sexuality collude and overlap to complicate constructions of femininity. Central to this treatment of the text is an awareness of how Wollstonecraft's identity as an English, middle-class woman impinges on both how and where she situates other identities in relation to her own. Racialized and classed Others, it is argued, provide Wollstonecraft with convenient sites for the displacement of the female desire that she views as dangerous and regressive. The act of displacement itself takes place again and again, revealing an anxiety about possible similarity between the bourgeois wife and her Others. While the fluctuation in the text between a rhetoric of identication and a rhetoric of differentiation is in part a manifestation of the contradictions and ambivalences that arise out of the process of stereotyping, it is also a persuasive devise that allows Wollstonecraft to insist that English bourgeois women's essential superiority from her Others is violated by a shared oppression. The tension between an avowal and disavowal of difference is thus a rhetorical strategy: by comparing the bourgeois Englishwoman to her Others abroad and at home, Wollstonecraft is able to represent her feminist demands not as radical, but as a reasonable attempt to maintain the moral superiority of her race and class.
McGonegal, Julie, "SLIPPING OUT OF THE OTHER AND INTO THE SELF: THE DISPLACEMENT OP DESIRE IN MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT'S A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6188.
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