Dr. Marisa Linton, Associate Professor in History at Kingston University and one of Britain’s leading experts on the French Revolution, recently gave an invited keynote lecture for the meeting of the Norwegian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, which was held at Trondheim, Norway, from 31st August to 2nd September, 2017.
The subject of Marisa’s talk was ‘Between Antiquity and Nature: The Gendered Politics of the French Revolution’. The venue for the conference was the beautiful Ringve Museum, Norway’s national museum of music and musical instruments, and included a special conference dinner (see photo). It was ‘a great event’, Marisa reports; her hosts were ‘very welcoming’ and the conference both intellectually stimulating and inclusive, a genuine ‘republic of letters’.
The day before the conference there was a masterclass for doctoral students, where Marisa led a session discussing Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. First published in 1796, Wollstonecraft’s book was both profoundly intellectual and deeply emotional. It combined her insights into the impact of the French Revolution in Scandinavia, observations on communities and customs in the places where she travelled, thoughts on the oppression of women, and deeply personal reflections on her own life. It was a journey simultaneously into what was then a remote part of Europe, and into the nature of human existence.
The book was published by Wollstonecraft’s regular publisher in England, Joseph Johnson, and was the last text issued during her tragically short life (she died aged just 38, following complications caused by childbirth). It sold very well in the 1790s, and was praised by critics, as well as Mary’s future husband, William Godwin. The text was translated into Dutch, German, Portuguese and Swedish, and also appeared in America.
Wollstonecraft’s book produced a lively discussion in the doctoral class. In Marisa’s view, the students ‘were terrific – enthusiastic, well-informed and full of insights’. Marisa says, ‘I learned as much from the students as they did from me, and they made me see a book I thought I knew well from a different perspective. Mary Wollstonecraft would have loved it!’
Marisa Linton’s publications include Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013)
(Image of Wollstonecraft: WikiMedia Commons)