Phyllis Mannocchi

Phyllis Mannocchi

Phyllis Mannocchi

The written text of this lecture can be accessed by clicking here: “The Development of Vernon Lee’s Politics” by Phyllis Mannocchi.

“Dal liberalismo vittoriano al radicalismo moderno: lo sviluppo della coscienza politico-sociale di Vernon Lee”

Il mio paper considera l’immagine che Vernon Lee diede di sé come pensatrice ‘politica’ utilizzando sia la sua corrispondenza, che le pubblicazioni su stampa popolare e politica. Metterò in luce come, nel sostenere la non belligeranza britannica sia prima che durante la prima guerra mondiale, Lee si alienò anche i lettori più fedeli. Il suo attivismo la fece diventare una radicale o una “piantagrane”, come l’avrebbe potuta definire lo storico A.J.P. Taylor. Come altre donne della sua generazione, Lee pagò care queste opinioni: fu emarginata a livello personale e intellettuale e le sue opere vennero presto dimenticate. Analizzando la lunga corrispondenza della scrittrice con politologi e riformatori sociali ed esaminandone alcuni articoli cercherò di tracciare l’evoluzione della sua coscienza socio-politica, dagli inizi come economista fino all’attivismo contro la politica estera inglese. Farò notare come la sua visione, partendo da un ‘facile’ liberismo alto-borghese ottocentesco, giunse all’attivismo novecentesco del Congresso Internazionale delle Donne dell’Aia (1915), dove fu invocata l’unione del movimento femminile con quello pacifista. Concluderò mostrando come, nonostante Lee appartenesse alla “vecchia guardia dell’intellettualismo cosmopolita vittoriano” (G.B. Shaw), seppe trasformarsi in una new woman, sostenitrice della pace, della cooperazione internazionale, dei diritti e dell’uguaglianza di donne e i lavoratori,. Entrò così a fare parte della lunga tradizione inglese di donne che operarono e scrissero a favore di riforme e giustizia sociale, internazionalismo e pacifismo.

 “From Victorian Liberalism to Early Modern Radicalism: The Development of Vernon Lee’s Political and Social Consciousness.”

The thesis of my paper is based on my contention that throughout her life, Vernon Lee identified as a ‘political’ thinker, utilizing her correspondence with her friends and mentors as well as her publications in both the popular press and the political press to hone her views; however, when Lee advocated an anti-war policy for British foreign policy before and during World War I, even her most devoted readership regarded her as having gone too far.  She had become too radical, a “troublemaker,” as historian A.J.P. Taylor might have labeled her, for her dissent and activism during a patriotic war. Eventually, Lee, like other radical women of her generation, would pay a huge price for her views; she would become marginalized personally and intellectually, and her work would gradually be forgotten. By analyzing Lee’s lifelong correspondence with political thinkers and social reformers who served as her mentors and by examining her political journalism, I hope to trace the development of Lee’s social and political consciousness, from her beginnings as a political economist to her activist role against British foreign policy.  During this development, she gradually broadened her political vision beyond the ‘easy’ British upper-middle-class liberalism of the nineteenth century to the twentieth-century activism of the Hague International Congress of Women, which called for the “linking together” of the women’s movement and the pacifist movement. I will conclude that Lee’s movement toward political ‘radicalization’ clearly demonstrates that though Lee had once been a member of “the old guard of Victorian cosmopolitan intellectualism” (G.B. Shaw), she had grown into a modern new woman by advocating peace, women’s and workers’ equality, and international cooperation. By so doing, she joined the ranks of a long-standing British tradition of activist women who worked and wrote for societal reform, social justice for women and workers, internationalism, and pacifism.

Phyllis Mannocchi è Professore d’inglese al Colby College e insegna anche letterature comparate e cinema. Ha studiato all’Università della Pennsylvania e alla Columbia University, dove ha conseguito il dottorato di ricerca. E’ autrice di diversi articoli e saggi su Vernon Lee.

Phyllis Mannocchi is a Professor of English at Colby College where she teaches English & Comparative Literature and Film Studies. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is the author of many articles and essays on Vernon Lee.

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