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 Mary: A Fiction

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PostSubject: Mary: A Fiction   Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:39 am

Mary: A Fiction is the first, and only complete, novel written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. It tells the tragic story of a heroine's successive "romantic friendships"[1] with a woman and a man. Composed while Wollstonecraft was a governess in Ireland, the novel was published in 1788 shortly after her summary dismissal and her momentous decision to embark on a writing career, a precarious and disreputable profession for women in 18th-century Britain.[2]

Inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's idea that geniuses are self-taught,[3] Wollstonecraft chose a rational, self-taught heroine, Mary, as the central character of her novel. Helping to redefine genius (a word which at the end of the 18th century was only beginning to take on its modern meaning of exceptional or brilliant), Wollstonecraft describes Mary as independent and capable of defining femininity and marriage for herself.[4] It is Mary's "strong, original opinions" and her resistance to "conventional wisdom" that mark her as a genius. Making her heroine a genius allowed Wollstonecraft to criticize marriage as well: geniuses were "enchained" rather than enriched by marriage.

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