Passions of the Mind: The Moral Martyrdom of Emma Courtney

  • Deborah WeissEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


This chapter argues that the female philosopher as Mary Hays sees her is a fundamentally tragic figure: self-conscious, self-aware, and self-destructive. The unstable superimposition of rationality onto sensibility makes the novel’s autobiographical protagonist into a philosopher and allows her to understand the world in ways denied to ordinary women. However, sensibility and rationality in tandem propel her toward alienation, misery, and self-destruction. The exploration of this seemingly intractable problem is the novel’s primary focus, as Hays’s proxy Emma Courtney struggles for happiness against the very qualities that distinguish her as a female philosopher, and finally settles on “moral martyrdom” as her only recourse.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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