Wollstonecraft and Shelley: Romantic Outlaws

Charlotte Gordon
Charlotte Gordon

What do you get in a world without strong women? Frankenstein.

Today on Campus Voices we speak with our host’s sister Charlotte Gordon, about her newest biography, Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley.

Sarah Craster (A&S ’16), one of Campus Voices‘ spring 2015 interns, helped interview Professor Gordon.

While Mary Shelley may be famous for creating Frankenstein and his monster, her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, is more obscure to most readers, despite her position as one of the earliest feminists, as evidenced by her 18th Century book A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

However, it would be a mistake to limit our understanding of Wollstonecraft to her most famous work. Her involvement in the French Revolution, varied romances, and “scandalous” personal life made her a celebrity, and her Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark influenced Wordsworth and Coleridge at the very beginnings of the Romantic movement.

Mary Shelley’s life proves no less interesting. Raised by her father because Wollstonecraft, her mother, died 10 days after giving birth, Shelley was nevertheless influenced a great deal by her mother, and the parallels between the two in both their personal lives and later writings are striking.

We also discuss the importance of analyzing texts within their historical context, the underemphasis of women in the Romantic canon, shared agency between diverse women, and biographies for popular audiences.

Listen to the interview

Charlotte Gordon (recorded 5/17/15, aired 5/21/15)
28.8 MB

About our guest

Charlotte Gordon is an associate professor of English at Endicott College, in Beverly, MA, where she also teaches Women’s and American Studies. She has written two books of poetry, and her third critical biography Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley has been recognized with a NY Times Editors’ Choice Selection and a London Times Book of the Week Selection.

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Photo courtesy of charlottegordonbooks.com