Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Charlotte Gordon

Critically acclaimed author Charlotte Gordon's newest book is Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley. Earlier works include Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America's First Poet — a Massachusetts Honor book for non-fiction — and The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths.

From her Q & A with Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel:

Your book argues that Mary Wollstonecraft’s influence on her daughter has been pretty systematically underestimated. Why do you think that relationship fell out of the historical record?

I think there’s the sort of primitive answer, which is no one really cares. And the ‘70s feminist in me says they were both underestimated as intellectuals and as thinkers and so no one was really interested in Mary Shelley’s literary heritage. And in fact the most important work that happened with Mary Shelley was excavating her from under the dominance of her husband, and no one has been that interested, frankly, in the female lineage, which is what interests me.

I think one of the fascinating things about Mary Wollstonecraft is we almost lost her. It’s thanks to the great women writers of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century that we have any historical records left of Mary Wollstonecraft, because as you know, after she died, her grieving husband wrote this tell-all memoir that scandalized the world. When people knew all the stuff she’d done and the men she’d slept with, et cetera, she became known as even more of a scandalous figure.

Nobody wanted to associate with her. Not early proto-feminists. And so it’s thanks to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf that we have kept any kind of record of her.

On another level, I think there was an active campaign to silence the voice of Wollstonecraft for about 125, 150 years. Really she was not studied or taken seriously until second-wave feminism, until the 1970s. And even then, the fashion was to see people as isolated miracles and not place them in their context.

And then, no one I think thought that a mother who had died could have influenced a daughter. People didn’t take into account—again, because they were minimizing who Wollstonecraft was and who Shelley was—that in fact Wollstonecraft was in fact so prolific that all Shelley had to do was read her books over and over and over again—which is what she did—to learn about her mother’s ideas and in fact to idealize her mother in a way that she might not even have done if she had been a normal daughter with a normal living mother where you quarrel and fight. Instead...[read on]
Visit Charlotte Gordon's website.

My Book, The Movie: Romantic Outlaws.

--Marshal Zeringue