Powers of the Soul: Wollstonecraft, Islam, and Historical Progress

Samara Ann Cahill
In Volume 1, Issue 2
Autumn 2010

Abstract

The article complicates Mary Wollstonecraft’s reputation as a ‘feminist orientalist’ by situating her rhetorical uses of an Islamic stereotype within her theory of historical progress. Wollstonecraft uses the concept of the rational, immortal soul to argue that all humans—regardless of gender or culture—are capable of improvement. Thus, while Wollstonecraft ideologically and rhetorically opposes Islamic doctrine on the basis of its supposed denial of immortality to women, she does not rely on the basic orientalist assumption that Western cultures and peoples are essentially superior to Eastern ones.

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