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Engaging NatureEnvironmentalism and the Political Theory Canon$
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Peter F. Cannavò and Joseph H. Lane Jr.

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028059

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.001.0001

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Mary Wollstonecraft: “Systemiz[ing] Oppression”—Feminism, Nature, and Animals

Mary Wollstonecraft: “Systemiz[ing] Oppression”—Feminism, Nature, and Animals

Chapter:
(p.173) 9 Mary Wollstonecraft: “Systemiz[ing] Oppression”—Feminism, Nature, and Animals
Source:
Engaging Nature
Author(s):

Barbara K. Seeber

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.003.0010

Barbara K. Seeber argues that Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneering feminist theorist, also offers considerable insights into the relationship between human beings and nature. Wollstonecraft sees commonalities between human beings and other animals; she attributes sentience and emotion to animals and accords them ethical consideration. Anticipating ecofeminism, Wollstonecraft sees cruelty toward animals as part of a broader matrix of gender, class, and species oppression; tyrannical behavior toward animals and toward other human beings is mutually reinforcing. However, Wollstonecraft’s perspective on nature goes beyond moral consideration for animals: her written observations of the Scandinavian landscape assess the environmental degradation wrought by human beings and also break down the distinction between subject and object, as she immerses herself in an interactive, reciprocal relationship with the natural environment and also sees agency in the landscape’s nonhuman inhabitants. Incontesting the subject/object distinction, Wollstonecraft also criticizes, as patriarchal and oppressive, the ideal of the detached observer of nature.

Keywords:   Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Wollstonecraft), Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (Wollstonecraft), Original Stories from Real Life (Wollstonecraft), environmental political theory, ecofeminism, feminism, animal rights, environmental ethics

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