Mary Wollstonecraft's Journey
to Scandinavia: Essays

Edited By Anka Ryall & Catherine Sandbach-Dahlstrom
December 2003
Almqvist & Wiksell International
ISBN: 91-22-02018-7
248 pages, 6 " x 9 "
$69.50 Paper Original


Best remembered today as a novelist and political philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft continues to challenge her present-day readers, as she did Virginia Woolf. Of all her writing the masterpiece is perhaps her last completed work, the epistolary travel narrative entitled Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It was published in 1796 following a journey to Scandinavia the previous year. Interest in this fascinating text has greatly increased in recent years, reflecting a growing critical attention to travel writing as a whole as well as recognition of the Letters literary qualities and historical importance. The Letters provides a powerful account of a journey to what was at the time an exotic outpost of European civilization. But it can also be read as an elegiac meditation on disillusion and lost love. Its twenty-five letters are addressed to an un identified male friend, actually Wollstonecraft's American lover Gilbert Imlay, who had deserted her. Apart from the pathos of the narrative framework, the Letters is a key text for the study of the development of literary Romanticism. According to the editors of Wollstonecraft's Collected Works, Marilyn Butler and Janet Todd, it "moved and haunted the leading men writers of her generation, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Hazlit and Godwin, and several of the women too - Seward, Hays and Alderson"(Works 1:21). It is also one of the few prose works by women now incorporated into the Romantic canon. For Scandinavians it has added significance due to the insight it provides into the social life of the Nordic countries at the end of the eighteenth century. Because it is richly involved with the intellectual and philosophical context to which it responds, it develops and deepens the political analyses of Wollstonecraft's early works.

Literature
Stockholm Studies in English XCIX

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