Heroism, Sensibility, and Gender: Mary Wollstonecraft's Feminist Politics in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman
My senior thesis examines Mary Wollstonecraft’s trajectory of thinking from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) to Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman (1798) to investigate how her notions of heroism and sensibility influence her feminist politics. I contend that Wollstonecraft gradually comes to recognize the double potential of sensibility to either subjugate or empower women, and that she redefines sensibility as a social and heroic virtue in her later works. Wollstonecraft’s reconstruction of sensibility and the figure of the sentimental heroine allows her to create a positive model of femininity, with which she hoped to inspire her female readers to work towards political, legal, and social reform. Investigating Wollstonecraft’s feminist politics, as they operated under the conventions of eighteenth-century British society, leads us to a fuller understanding of the progress and shortcomings of the feminist movement within the past few decades.