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Post by wangrong on Sun Nov 21, 2010 1:36 am

Wollstonecraft's epigrammatic allusion to Rousseau's Julie (1761) signifies her debt to the novel of sensibility, one of the most popular genres during the last half of the eighteenth century. Along with other female writers, such as Mary Hays, Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, Maria Edgeworth, and Hannah More, Wollstonecraft felt compelled to respond to the Rousseauvean ideological aesthetic that had come to dominate British fiction.[10] Romantic heroines, Wollstonecraft scholar Gary Kelly writes, "represent woman constructed for man: the heroic feminine victim of the courtly rake and gallant, the virtuous feminine companion of the ideal professionalized gentleman, and the intellectually and erotically subservient companion of the ideal bourgeois man".[11] Wollstonecraft announces in the novel's "Advertisement" (a section similar to a preface) that she is offering her heroine, who is a "genius", as a contrast to characters such as Samuel Richardson's Clarissa and Rousseau's Sophie.[12] In addition the text is peppered with allusions to popular sentimental novels such as The History of Eliza Warwick (1778) and The Platonic Marriage (1787), which critique their presentation of the heroine of feminine sensibility. Mary is more akin to the charitable and industrious heroines of Bluestocking Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall (1762) than to the passive, weepy heroines found in most sentimental novels.[13] Debate concerning the relationship between gender and sensibility continued into the early nineteenth century; Jane Austen, for example, made it the explicit focus of her novel Sense and Sensibility (1811).[14]

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