Hospitality and the Nation in Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

Jennifer Wawrzinek


In the summer of 1795, when Mary Wollstonecraft journeyed to Scandinavia, she was disillusioned with human society and the possibility of meaningful relation with others. She had recently been in Paris, where she had seen many of her moderate revolutionary friends executed under Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, and by the time of her arrival in Scandinavia her unsatisfactory relationship with Gilbert Imlay was coming to an end. The book that resulted from this journey, A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, is remarkable for its critique of sovereignty and the reification of difference inherent to the construction of national borders and the drives of commercial exchange. The article argues that Wollstonecraft insists upon openness to the people and cultures she encounters through configuring epistemology as a twin process of experiential contact and sceptical inquiry. This a process that remains inherently and necessarily ethical because it resists the structures of tyranny, domination, and control, which Wollstonecraft perceives to be afflicting late-eighteenth-century Europe, whilst simultaneously allowing for a re-conception of politics and justice according to the demands both of the present and the not-yet-formalised future.


Travel Writing; Hospitality; Nation; Commerce; Epistemology; Politics; Justice

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ISSN: 2246-2945  

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