On Mary Wollstonecraft 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman' (1792)

Essay by gnomesUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, May 2006

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The object of this essay is to discuss two passages from 'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) , and to identify in what ways, and to what extent this text is 'modern'. To achieve this, an analysis of the main ideas and arguments of the text will be conducted, together with an attempt to identify ways in which the text responds to the ideas, social circumstances and cultural preoccupations of its own time as well as the ways in which it has influenced subsequent debates on women's rights.

It is first necessary to define the term 'modern'. Modern culture or Modernity is an umbrella term for a number of cultural developments that took place primarily in Europe and North America over a period stretching from the 17th century through to our own day. The core themes that have shaped Modernity have been the secularisation of culture, the acceptance of the individual as the basic unit of society (i.e.

that society is made up of individuals), the emergence of a technological world-view that accompanied the rise of instrumental rationality to a position of pre-eminence, and finally, the development of a Liberal culture that flowed from an increasing societal acceptance of liberal democracy.

The intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, which came to be known as the Enlightenment, ushered in this new age of Modernity, and saw a synthesizing of the ideas concerning God, reason, nature, and man into a worldview that gained wide assent and that instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy, and politics. Central to Enlightenment thought were the use and the celebration of reason, the power by which man understands the universe and improves his own condition. The goals of rational man were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness. This movement celebrated change...