Feminism and Enlightenment Legacies
Much of what contemporary feminist philosophy and critical theory has had to say about Enlightenment — whether positive or negative — has been over-simple to the point of caricature. Historians of the period have long been aware of this, yet even they, one suspects, will be surprised by the complexity of the connections between ‘feminism’ and ‘Enlightenment’ that emerge from this volume. The findings assembled here will surely make it difficult for feminist theorists ever again to refer to ‘the Enlightenment’ in gestural mode, whether to endorse it as a culturally seamless movement of progress; or (as has been more usual in recent times) to dismiss it as an obvious bugbear of feminism, more or less synonymous with everything white, male, middle-class and heterosexual. Legacies will have to be reconsidered. Twenty-first century feminists who see themselves as inheriting an essentially uniform tradition of thinking about the emancipation of women will need to recognise that eighteenth-century pro-women thinking was differently influenced and inflected than their own; while postmodernist critics, for their part, will discover that the reviled Enlightenment is an altogether more convoluted and in certain respects congenial affair than hitherto conceded.
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- 6.Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, ch. 1.Google Scholar