Upon reading Joe Moran’s Interdisciplinarity I was struck, once again, with a connection that could be drawn between a topic of his, and something alive in my own encounters:
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was penned in 1792 by Mary Wollstonecraft as a manifesto for the oppressed women of England. It is a passionate and lively text, even to its modern readers, written by its author in six feverish weeks. What is important to note about this text, is that it was not a novel; it was not poetry, not a play, not anything creative and fictional. Wollstonecraft’s vindication was a thought provoking piece that had a foundation on nothing but real societal issues of her day. For women writers of the 18th century, this was unheard of. They were expected to produce works that, “all tend to make women the creatures of sensation” (Wollstonecraft 79), as if they could have no desire for substance and knowledge. Wollstonecraft actually condemned the women of her time who submitted to producing such works that continued to oppress women by fostering fantastical realities in place of actual ones, because they were given a precious voice, yet chose to use it in betrayal.
Feminism is, clearly, not a literary issue, but a social one. However, it was through literature that some of the earliest feminists were able to influence society, giving them a seeds of precious power. Wollstonecraft is reflected by Simone de Beauvoir in Moran’s discussion regarding ‘Feminism and the Body’. De Beauvoir had to fight, similarly to Wollstonecraft, against evidence put forth by academic men of her day which kept women classified and oppressed. At her disposal, she had arguments rooted in biology, psychoanalysis, and other areas in which she could make truly interdisciplinary points. In Wollstonecraft’s time, what she could primarily use were literary and societal texts, such as the Bible, and other male writers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau who argued for political liberty for men, yet belittled their female counterparts. While she utilized little interdisciplinarity in her work, intertextuality was present.
Seeing feminism take the grand strides that it has is an incredibly hopeful experience, and seeing that interdisciplinarity has played a large role in making feminist arguments even more valid gives me reason to stand behind the idea of such a concept.