Essays in Romanticism

Falling in Love with the Author in Godwin’s Memoirs of Wollstonecraft

Essays in Romanticism (2018), 25, (2), 123–139.


With its strange blend of philosophical argument and intimate revelation, William Godwin’s Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft has long occupied a notorious place in literary history. Less attention, however, has been paid to the more subtle—yet equally crucial—fractures in the text that result from what is, in essence, a task of impossible representation. Godwin, whose presence in Wollstonecraft’s life was a relatively recent development, sets out to chronicle the life of his beloved, yet struggles to reconcile the woman and the author. Unable fully to bridge the aporia between “Mary” and “Wollstonecraft,” but committed to a faithful rendering of her often contradictory subject positions, Godwin creates a text riven by instabilities of time and reference that are themselves the result of his fidelity to his subject.

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Author details

McCarthy, Anne C.