Thursday, December 28, 2006
A while ago I listened to this lecture by Lyndall Gordon, who wrote Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. The podcast is fantastic: it's not something I would have sought out, but it came into my ipod on the WGBH Forum network podcast, and I've had good luck with them before.*
Wollstonecraft thought of herself as a "new genus" of woman. She lived during the time of the French revolution, and while the French were defining new notions of the value of mankind in relation to the state, she seems to have been quietly reinventing herself. She went to France when every other sane Englishman was leaving it and saw Louis XVI being taken to his trial, and went on to write this.
I'm not finished reading her biography yet, but I'm really enjoying it. The New York Times Book Review named it as one of their top 100 books of 2005, and it's out in paperback now. If you're interested, there's a review here.
One of the most interesting things about the podcast is the way that Lyndall Gordon talks about how Wollstonecraft has been mythologized. Gordon views the book as a vindication of the complexity of Gordon's life, and as a response to the previous ways that we've constructed narratives of feminine heroines.
(*The WGBH Forum Series is great. I especially like this lecture, Impassioned Experience: Artwork in a 4h Grade Classroom, in which a hilariously sweet, earnest man talks very seriously about children's photographs and writing. "And as Suzy says about her pink bunny, it is soft, and it is nice..." )