Mary Wollstonecraft’s Scandinavian journey 1795 re-traced


The project takes its point of departure in the feminist theorist Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1759-1797) travelogue Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark from 1796. The book is written in epistolary form during Wollstonecraft’s journey in Scandinavia the summer of 1795. A few years earlier she had published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by many considered to be the founding text of Western feminism.

A reading of Wollstonecraft’s travelogue and a “re-tracing” of her journey – physically, but primarily through the many biographies written about Wollstonecraft – are the starting points for a project that suggests a less linear relationship to the past and asks questions regarding what alternative history writing could be. Rather than trying to find more information about Mary Wollstonecraft, Åsa Elzén has focused on the fiction, anachronisms, misreadings and gaps in this history, as well as on the history writer’s desire (including her own) for a coherent chronology. 


Art historian Griselda Pollock points to the risk of just adding persons and events to history, instead the challenge for a feminist writing of history should be to deconstruct the discourse of canon, to build an understanding of how deviance or “the other” is produced and reproduced.

The project consists of three parts:

The Glade I (video)

The Glade II (glass goblet with engraving)

Who Fooled Whom? (book)


Left: Map included in the book Who Fooled Whom? as a collage in two layers. The main map was originally published in  P. Nyström, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Scandinavian Journey, Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Gothenburg, 1980

© Åsa Elzén and Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Gothenburg

Åsa Elzén