April 19, 2014 by Racheltd
The title of the event was “Reasoning Deeply: Mary Wollstonecraft and Women Arguing for Liberty” and to get us in the spirit of the evening there was a short talk on history of women’s contribution to intellectual tradition through salons. Professor Benet Davetian, of Prince Edward Island University describes the importance of these gatherings:
Ideas, however—and the heart to put them into practice—require more than rational calculation if they are to flourish. They need people willing to appreciate the interdependent connections between creative thinking, interpersonal sharing, and mutual action-support networks. Salons and discussions groups provide the means for the recreation and preservation of these precious forgotten social tools and privileges. They provide us with the opportunity of gathering with others and breaking the chains of isolation that keep us in our heads; they lead us out into the heart of the human community. So, a conversation salon needs not be a place for ideological lobbying. Nor need it be a place where social action is planned and carried out with bureaucratic efficiency. It serves its purpose magnificently if it succeeds in inspiring people to use their minds and hearts at their maximum capacity and come to appreciate the personalities and contributions of others even if they differ from their own. True conversation occurs when we feel at ease expressing our ideas and sentiments, while remaining free to modify them based on what we learn from others sharing our space and experience. Winning the debate is not the purpose of good conversation. Winning back our ability to talk with one another (as opposed to talking ‘at’ one another) is the ultimate and most precious goal of a salon.
After this introduction we hosted a mini-seminar on an excerpt from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Women. (You can find the reading handout here). The conversation centered on Wollstonecraft’s quote, “Educated then in worse than Egyptian bondage, it is unreasonable, as well as cruel.” All of the attendees contributed brilliantly to the question of whether education is a form of slavery.
A huge thank you to Noelle Mandell for setting it up for us!