I am interested in exploring the posthumous reputations of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson. Robinson was a contemporary of Wollstonecraft, and was an “actress, poet, dramatist, novelist, and celebrity figure” (Wikipedia). She wrote a candid memoir that was unfinished at the time of her death but published posthumously by her daughter.

Some specific things I’m thinking about are:
–Individual agency in shaping legacy or reputation–writing one’s own memoir vs. having one written about you.
–How the legacy of candor (oversharing) of personal information (via memoir) overshadows the legacy of intellectual contributions, both political and literary.
–Does who they were change how expected the sharing of personal information was? Robinson was known as an actress and mistress, so a memoir with juicy details of her life was, in some ways, expected of her. Wollstonecraft had at least the veneer of conventional life, so the kind of revelations in Godwin’s memoir were less expected.
–Changes in societal views on candor/oversharing.

In terms of textual analysis, I’d like to look at contemporaneous reviews of both memoirs to get an idea of public opinion. I’d like to look at a recent biography of each and one published relatively soon after their deaths to see how the treatment of their lives and intellectual contributions has changed over time. And because I love quantitative analysis, I’m interested in how many biographies of each have been published since their deaths, and possibly also how many of their own works have been published.



1 Comment so far

  1. Carrie Hintz on March 3, 2015 2:16 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    This looks great to me–you are circling around a very viable topic, and I look forward to seeing you develop this! I look forward to learning more about Robinson in particular. CH




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