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Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination
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  • 4 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 352 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.55 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521004176 | ISBN-10: 0521004179)

In the two centuries since Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), she has become an icon of modern feminism: a stature that has paradoxically obscured her real historic significance. In this in-depth 2003 study of Wollstonecraft's thought, Barbara Taylor develops an alternative reading of her as a writer steeped in the utopianism of Britain's radical Enlightenment. Wollstonecraft's feminist aspirations, Taylor shows, were part of a revolutionary programme for universal equality and moral perfection that reached its zenith during the political upheavals of the 1790s but had its roots in the radical-Protestant Enlightenment. Drawing on all of Wollstonecraft's works, and locating them in a vividly detailed account of her intellectual world and troubled personal history, Taylor provides a compelling portrait of this fascinating and profoundly influential thinker.

• The fullest account to date of Wollstonecraft as an eighteenth-century thinker, setting her ideas in historic context • A lucid and sympathetic retelling of Wollstonecraft's controversial life-story • Written by an established intellectual and cultural historian


Acknowledgments; Introduction: Mary Wollstonecraft and the paradoxes of feminism; Part I. Imagining Women: 1. The female philosopher; 2. The chimera of womanhood; 3. For the love of God; Part II. Feminism and Revolution: 4. Wollstonecraft and British radicalism; 5. Perfecting civilization; 6. Gallic philosophesses; 7. Women vs. the polity; 8. The female citizen; 9. Jemima and the beginnings of modern feminism; Epilogue: the fantasy of Mary Wollstonecraft; Bibliography.


'This book will be essential reading for many years to come, not merely as a groundbreaking monograph on Wollstonecraft, but for demonstrating the centrality of feminist philosophy to the development of the Romantic imagination.' The Times Literary Supplement

'Read every word of this excellent book. Never before has the true genius of Mary Wollstonecraft been so indelibly portrayed. Several other expert hands have offered their various portrayals but Barbara Taylor presents the most properly designed picture of the revolutionary age in which she lived and to which she made such an original contribution.' Michael Foot, Tribune

'… outstanding … the product of many years' engagement with Wollstonecraft, Taylor's study of her works in her time - and in ours - discerns numerous contradictions and paradoxes in them, in her life and in the reception of them.' The Guardian

'… a thoughtful, wide-ranging and important examination of Wollstonecraft's thought … Wollstonecraft is skilfully considered in terms of radical Enlightenment thought, and the links between this and feminism are probed in a treatment that is alive to the diversity of this radicalism.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

'This book is an important addition to the now quite extensive literature on Mary Wollstonecraft … a careful and nuanced account of the changing political and intellectual circumstances in which Wollstonecraft lived. the discussion of the 1790s, of the rapid shifts in outlook in Britain that followed the French Revolution, and their impact on the ways in which Wollstonecraft was read and understood is particularly insightful.' Radical Philosophy

'What Taylor gives us is not only a highly insightful reading of Wollstonecraft, but also an exemplary piece of feminist scholarship.' H-Net Book Review

'The polyvalent senses of Barbara Taylor's title, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, convey both the scope and sublety of this important monograph.' History

'… Taylor marvelously delineates Wollstonecraft's life and entire corpus within a historical context, by way of her original and unique access: the combination of psychoanalytic approach and historical study … I found Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination thrilling and illuminating. Taylor's perspective is surprisingly original, but at the same time, built up on the past scholarship on Wollstonecraft … I am deeply impressed with Taylor's distinguished talent and long-year perseverance 'for the love of Wollstonecraft.' I believe Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination will make a great contribution and open new prospects for future scholarship on Mary Wollstonecraft, a fascinating and profoundly influential thinker.' Studies in English Literature

'… compelling and ground-breaking'. European Romantic Review

'Taylor is a sharp and generous reader of Wollstonecraft's character, of her writings, and of her times. This magisterial study is the carefully crafted result of two decades of work; it demonstrates an excellent command of Wollstonecraft's oeuvre, and it is formidably informed about competing intellectual and ideological systems in the eighteenth century.' MLR

'… for anyone familiar with her work and the ideas of the Enlightenment, this is an interesting and thought-provoking read.' International Socialism

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