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'Original Spirit': Literary Translations and Translational Literature in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laura Kirkley


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Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE Since the 1980s, the ‘cultural turn’ in Translation Studies has invited scholars to understand translation as a creative practice, a transformative appropriation of source material. In her interventionist translation, Elements of Morality for the use of young children (1790), Wollstonecraft reconstructs the German mother, Frau Herrmann, in Christian Gotthilf Salzmann’s Moralisches Elementarbuch (1783), as Mrs Jones, an authoritative educator with feminist potential. Mrs Jones has much in common with Mrs Mason, Wollstonecraft’s pedagogical alter-ego in her conduct-book, Original Stories from real life (1788). This article argues that both characters are Wollstonecraftian alter-egos who can, in turn, be regarded as feminist ‘translations’ of the autofictional matriarchs dominating the works of Félicité de Genlis. At various stages of her career, Wollstonecraft translates, both literally and metaphorically, the figure of the mother-educator, who, in her final incarnation in Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (1798), represents the most progressive stage in her Revolutionary feminism. She draws on influential source texts but resists their putative authority, appropriating and transforming material in the service of her feminist agenda. Each of her works can also be said to rewrite – or translate – its predecessors, inviting initiated readers to draw intertextual connections. I argue that her literary corpus is, in essence, ‘translational’, dependent on dialogical relations with other writers and born of a process of rewriting that invests each text with an original – and distinctly feminist – spirit.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kirkley L

Editor(s): Goodman RT

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Literature and the Development of Feminist Theory

Year: 2015

Pages: 13-26

Print publication date: 30/11/2015

Acceptance date: 14/12/2014

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Place Published: Cambridge


DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781316422007.002