Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley: Writing Lives

By Helen M. Buss; D. L. Macdonald et al. | Go to book overview

The Power of the Unnamed You in
Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters
Written during a Short Residence in
weden, Norway, and Denmark

Syndy McMillen Conger

The term “life writing,” inclusively defined by Marlene Kadar iL· as “texts that are written by an author who does not continuously write about someone else, and who also does not pretend to be absent from the … text himself/herself (“Coming” 10), might have been invented to talk about the texts of Mary Wollstonecraft; for Wollstonecraft's “lifelong project,” according to Catherine N. Parke, was “to get herself both more into and more out of her work, which is to say, to write both more and less personally” (105).' From the beginning of her literary life she wove fictions into her life and her life into her fictions.2 Her last completed book, Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796), can be seen as the final contribution to these lifelong projects of literary confession and self-fictionalization. It shares with her other works a haunting liminal quality:3 whatever ostensible subject it pursues, it is also always constituting or revealing the authorial subject, gesturing from the textual threshold toward some shadowy but intensely personal emotional life beyond the text. This quality is often noticed but perceived as an interruption—as “sentimental … wanderings” (Nyström 34), “personal reverie” (Bohls 73), or “intrusive personal voice” (Ty, “Writing” 64)—when it might be

Notes are on pp. 51–53.

-43-

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