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Betwixt and Between

The Biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft

By Brenda Ayres

Betwixt and Between

A critical investigation of the biographical corpus on Mary Wollstonecraft.

Imprint: Anthem Press
ISBN 9781783086849
June 2017 | 250 Pages | 229 x 152mm / 9 x 6
PRICE:  £70.00  /  $115.00  Buy from Amazon.co.uk  Buy from Amazon.com

About This Book

“This book offers a fascinating perspective on more than two centuries of Wollstonecraft biography. Ayres writes with a scholarly eye, tracing the different versions of Wollstonecraft that have emerged over the years and interrogates the evidence on which they are based.”
—Jane Hodson, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Sheffield, UK

“Betwixt and Between is a bracing critical survey of how frequently biographers distort or even discount facts when depicting the life of Mary Wollstonecraft. In its desire to set the record straight, this book adds to our knowledge of Wollstonecraft’s complicated life, and charts her changing significance over the course of two centuries to scholars whose deep investments in her life tell a history of its own.”
—Julie A. Carlson, Professor of English, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

When biographers write about a person’s life, they prioritize what is important to themselves: What interests them, what resonates with them, what helps them, what teaches them, what makes sense to them, and, most significantly, what advances their own political agendas. Their research is filtered through these lenses. Even if their biographical goal is to learn and present enough about their writers to better analyze a certain canon, literary critics usually construct life stories through their own theoretical positions. Certainly, readers should be aware that biographies bend according to their authors’ psychological makeup, cultural encoding, historical agency, and political penchants. Furthermore, biographies often reflect the age in which they are written, more so than the age in which their subject lived. This is not always a negative outcome, but it always imbues the portrait of the “biographee” with its own qualities so that the facsimile is never unadulterated. [NP] Betwixt and Between is an investigation of the biographical corpus of Mary Wollstonecraft, starting with Godwin’s Memoirs (1798) and ending with Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws (2015). It identifies the biases, contradictions, errors, ambiguities, and gaps that have run rampant, many of them incomprehensively left unchecked and perpetuated from publication to publication. The myriad, often contradictory renditions of her life and thoughts have given us such a distorted view of Wollstonecraft that she has evolved into varying degrees of heroine and villain, an everywoman for every cause.

Readership: The book appeals to scholars of Wollstonecraft and students studying Wollstonecraft in courses on British literature, women’s literature, Romanticism, English Enlightenment, revolutionary literature, women’s and gender studies, feminism and history of the woman’s movement. It also engages those interested in biographies in general.

Author Information

Brenda Ayres is a full professor of nineteenth-century English literature, member of the graduate faculty and Assistant Director of Honors at Liberty University, USA. Publishing extensively in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, she has written over 170 articles and 26 books including What Dog Lovers Know about God (2016); Becoming Mary Wollstonecraft (2017); Mary Wollstonecraft and Religion: Sojourner in a Strange Land (2017); and Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers: A Hall of Mirrors and the Long Nineteenth Century (2017).

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