Eszter Kovács New Voices Research Profile

Project: Biblical Women in Early Modern Female Thought

This project can be considered the continuation of my PhD thesis in philosophy, titled Conceptions of Liberty in Early Modern Female Thought: Metaphysics, Intellect, and the Female Self (Anne Conway, Mary Astell, Émilie Du Châtelet), under the supervision of Dániel Schmal at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest), destined to be defended in 2022.

After several years of specialization in Diderot, I have started to carry out research on Émilie Du Châtelet’s thought in 2016. I have broadened this research to other early modern female philosophers, more particularly Mary Astell, after 2018. The idea of a project on biblical women emerged when I noticed a very clear difference between the approaches towards these figures in Astell’s and Du Châtelet’s thought. While Astell uses biblical women as exempla to illustrate coequality and even female exceptionality, Du Châtelet criticizes traditional religious morality attached to female figures in the Bible (Ruth, Esther, Judith). I have also stated while working on this subject that there exists no overall study of biblical women in early modern female philosophers’ works, although we can use dictionaries in this field (Marion Ann Taylor (ed.), Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters, Michigan, Baker Academic, 2012) and there are book-length studies of particular figures (Joy A. Schroeder, Deborah’s Daughters: Gender Politics and Biblical Interpretation).

As two chapters of my PhD-thesis is destined to examine the role of biblical women relatively to the question of freedom – one on Astell and one on Du Châtelet – I aim to continue this research in a comparative perspective to show in which aspects female philosophical interpretations of biblical women in the early modern era were different from those of male philosophers.

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