William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of the Rights of Woman and the gender of romantic biography

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Journal Article
Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 2008, 13 (2), pp. 17 - 31
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Some years after the publication of her ground-breaking article Women and Philosophy (1977), in which she describes women's relationship to philosophical inquiry in terms of a Heloise complex, Michèle Le Duff wrote that she had not initially thought through how the tragic fate of the philosopher Peter Abelard might modify her thesis. The story of Abelard certainly complicates Le Duff's understanding of how the Heloise complex functions as an impulse driving women to subsume themselves into a philosopher lover. Critical to Le Duff's original thesis is the idea of erotico-theoretical transference (Moi 185), that is, while a male student is led to philosophise by a lack caused by his instructor (I imagined I had found the man who would teach me but he disappointed me ), Le Duff has argued, a female student experiences not a philosophical lack but the ordinary, classic, psychological lack, the lack which the Other is seen as capable of meeting (Hipparchia's Choice 188). Thus untroubled by the disappointment that propels men to theory, and embraced by their lover-instructor, women are not condemned to philosophise, nor to write not to say `I (188). Such abnegation of mind, Le Duff suggests, was always profitable to him and fatal to her (188).
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