Talk:A Vindication of the Rights of Men

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Contemporary re-evaluation[edit]

  • This is a very enjoyable and informative read. One sentence that did jump out at me a bit was this one:
"This analysis of the Rights of Men prevailed until the 1970s, when feminist scholars began to read Wollstonecraft's texts with more care and called attention to their intellectualism."

I'm not sure that it's reasonable to say that they read with more care. The implication is that all previous scholars missed the point simply because they weren't paying attention—the graves of two centuries' worth of readers echo to a collective headslap: "Of course, those feminist scholars have nailed it! How on earth did we miss that!" :) It's not the case that had earlier readers had read more carefully, they would have arrived at the same conclusion as the feminists have. If the feminist scholars' analysis now has currency, surely that's because literary analysis has moved on and because they are viewing the texts from a 21st century perspective, not because they've read them more carefully than their predecessors.

The description used in the penultimate paragraph—re-evaluation—strikes me as more balanced and a little less emotive.--MoreThings (talk) 22:45, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

  • That seems like a fair point to me. How about this as a revision: This analysis of the Rights of Men prevailed until feminist scholars re-evaluated Wollstonecraft's texts during the 1970s, calling attention to their intellectualism. Awadewit (talk) 23:44, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
  • I think that's better. This would be another alternative.
This analysis of the Rights of Men was largely unchallenged until the 1970s, when feminist scholars re-evaluated Wollstonecraft's work and suggested an alternative reading which emphasised its intellectualism.
But I'm wondering if in general it's a little too straightforward to represent the criticism as a simple dichotomy between female passion-bad and male reason-good. Sapiro actually does explicitly support the claim that the article (and she) make regarding lack of care:
Few biographers show much evidence of having studied her texts carefully or, certainly, of having investigated the work of the writers and thinkers who influenced her most.
But she doesn't hold back about the nature of the criticism:
Margaret George put it simply: 'She never wrote a line that was not revealing of herself...' Her works are repeatedly criticized for their bad style, lack of order, questionable originality, and lack of humor; but praised, or at least recommended, for their insights into the life, mind and passions of Mary Wollstonecraft.
By contrast, our two lead sentences, below, seem to suggest that as soon as the reviewers got wind of the fact that she was female, they started to attack her simply because she was a woman. I'm sure there was an element of that, but was it really quite so clear-cut, and was that all there was to it?
However, upon the publication of the second edition (the first to carry Wollstonecraft's name on the title page), the reviews began to evaluate the text not only as a political pamphlet but also as the work of a female writer. They contrasted Wollstonecraft's "passion" with Burke's "reason" and spoke condescendingly of the text and its female author.
--MoreThings (talk) 19:40, 6 April 2010 (UTC)