Cover image for Feminist Interpretations of Mary Astell Edited by Alice Sowaal and Penny A. Weiss

Feminist Interpretations of Mary Astell

Edited by Alice Sowaal and Penny A. Weiss

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$89.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-07124-4

$44.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-07125-1

248 pages
6" × 9"
2016

Re-Reading the Canon

Feminist Interpretations of Mary Astell

Edited by Alice Sowaal and Penny A. Weiss

“A fascinating, timely, and scholarly rereading of the work of Mary Astell that moves her from a mere curiosity—a seventeenth-century woman with feminist leanings—to a full-fledged participant in many of the philosophical issues of her day and a contributor to our contemporary debates.”

 

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Often referred to as a proto-feminist, early modern English philosopher and rhetorician Mary Astell was a pious supporter of monarchy who wrote about gender equality at a time when society tightly constrained female agency. This diverse collection of essays situates her ideas in feminist, historical, and philosophical contexts.

Focusing on Astell’s work and thought, this book explores the degree to which she can be considered a “feminist” in light of her adherence to Cartesianism, Christian theology, and Tory politics. The contributors explore the philosophical underpinnings of Astell’s outspoken advocacy for the autonomy and education of women; examine the intricacies underlying her theories of power, community, and female resistance to unlawful authority; and reveal the similarities between her own philosophy of gender and sexual politics and feminist theorizing today.

A broad-ranging look at one of the most important female writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this volume will be especially valuable to students and scholars of feminist history and philosophy and the early modern era.

Aside from the editors, the contributors are Kathleen A. Ahearn, Jacqueline Broad, Karen Detlefsen, Susan Paterson Glover, Marcy P. Lascano, Elisabeth Hedrick Moser, Christine Mason Sutherland, and Nancy Tuana.

“A fascinating, timely, and scholarly rereading of the work of Mary Astell that moves her from a mere curiosity—a seventeenth-century woman with feminist leanings—to a full-fledged participant in many of the philosophical issues of her day and a contributor to our contemporary debates.”
“That we have come to a point where it is possible to offer a set of substantive essays concerning the works of a noncanonical early modern philosopher speaks to the hard work that feminist historians of philosophy have been engaged in for the past number of years. Indeed, it is a major strength of this volume that it takes seriously the work of an early modern woman both as a possible subject for feminist consideration and analysis, and also as a philosopher of note in her own right.”

Alice Sowaal is Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. She has written widely on Descartes and Mary Astell.

Penny A. Weiss is Professor of Political Science at Saint Louis University. Her most recent book is Cannon Fodder: Historical Women Political Figures, also published by Penn State University Press.

Contents

Preface

Nancy Tuana

Acknowledgments

1 Locations and Legacies: Reading Mary Astell and Re-Reading the Canon

Penny A. Weiss

2 Mary Astell and the Virtues

Jacqueline Broad

3 Mary Astell’s Account of Feminine Self-Esteem

Kathleen A. Ahearn

4 Mary Astell and the Development of Vice: Pride, Courtship, and the Woman’s Human Nature Question

Alice Sowaal

5 Custom, Freedom, and Equality: Mary Astell on Marriage and Women’s Education

Karen Detlefsen

6 Further Reflections upon Marriage: Mary Astell and Sarah Chapone

Susan Paterson Glover

7 Mary Astell: Some Reflections upon Trauma

Elisabeth Hedrick Moser

8 “From the Throne to Every Private Family”: Mary Astell as Analyst of Power

Penny A. Weiss

9 Mary Astell’s Feminism: A Rhetorical Perspective

Christine Mason Sutherland

10 Mary Astell on the Existence and Nature of God

Marcy P. Lascano

11 The Emerging Picture of Mary Astell’s Views

Alice Sowaal

References

Index

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