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By Roxanne Eberle (auth.)

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Additional resources for Chastity and Transgression in Women’s Writing, 1792–1897: Interrupting the Harlot’s Progress

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I would suggest that in employing such a contentious metaphor, Wollstonecraft challenges not only the construction of the first term (“good” women) but also the second term (“bad” women). If “good” women are like sexually transgressive women, then what are sexual transgressors like? According to the logic of Wollstonecraft’s Vindication, sometimes sexually transgressive women corrupt the innocent, sometimes they are good mothers and faithful partners, and sometimes they are innocent and doomed victims; very occasionally, however, they are exceptional women.

Pine for a Lovelace; a man so witty, so graceful, and so valiant” rather than seeking a man with “the virtues of a husband” (120). Given the difficulty of immediately changing the psychosexual underpinnings of seduction, Wollstonecraft boldly recommends extending the benefit of law to some sexually transgressive women when education has failed them. In the fourth chapter of the Vindication, “Observations on the State of Degradation to Which Woman Is Reduced by Various Causes”, Wollstonecraft begins a discussion of polygamy in other cultures – as an example of the “physical degradation” of women – only to turn to “seduction” and “prostitution” within British society.

Both Johnny’s wife and a maid in the employ of her husband have betrayed Maria, while Jemima has never had any reason to trust women with more social power than she. Furthermore, each woman must guard against the dangers of very different sensibilities from their own. ” (32). Jemima clings to the lessons of her difficult life as strongly as Maria had clung to her refined sensibility. Both women must abandon their previous belief structures before they can meet as equals and share their narratives.

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