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By R. Eberle

Operating on the intersections of feminist literary feedback, new historicism, and narratology, Chastity and Transgression in Women's Writing, 1792-1897 revises present understandings of nineteenth Century representations of prostitution, lady sexuality, and the "rights of ladies" debate. Eberle's venture explores the connections and disjunctures among girls writing through the Romantic interval and people operating during the Victorian period. Roxanne Eberle considers a variety of authors together with Mary Wollstonecraft, Amelia Opie, Mary Hays, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Sarah Grand.

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Indeed, Wollstonecraft’s gender-bending novel of the “passions” takes as its protagonist a new type of female character. The prefatory notes further reflect the author’s frustration with the idealized heroines found in the sentimental novel of manners as well as the domestic tale: “In many works of this species, the hero is allowed to be mortal, and to become wise and virtuous as well as happy, by a train of events and circumstances. The heroines, on the contrary, are to be born 21 22 Chastity and Transgression in Women’s Writing, 1792–1897 immaculate, and to act like goddesses of wisdom, just come forth highly finished Minervas from the head of Jove” (21).

In Equivocal Beings, however, Claudia Johnson recuperates the utopian potential in the relationship of Maria and Jemima by focusing upon Wollstonecraft’s increasingly critical stance toward the revolutionary politics that she had celebrated in the early 1790s, as well as its compulsory heterosexuality. According to 40 Chastity and Transgression in Women’s Writing, 1792–1897 Johnson, Wollstonecraft “grimly” turns from idealizing the “emancipatory potential of republican masculinity and domesticity” to reexamine the female body “in all of its creatureliness, and it is offered as the basis for solidarity with other women and as the spring of moral sentiment from which men will ultimately be excluded” (59, 58).

Nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence, a most laudable one! sink them almost to the level of those poor abandoned creatures who live by prostitution” (148). In the following passage, Wollstonecraft continues to develop an argument already raised in the text: Necessity never makes prostitution the business of men’s lives; though numberless are the women who are thus rendered systematically vicious. This, however, arises, in a great degree, from the state of idleness in which women are educated, who are always taught to look up to man for a maintenance, and to consider their persons as the proper return for his exertions to support them.

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