Who Fooled Whom?

hard cover book, 13,5 x 20 cm, 95 pages, edition 200, typography

Moa Edlund, 2012

part of the project Mary Wollstonecraft’s Scandinavian journey

1795 re-traced

Åsa Elzén





The project also deals with subject formation and shows how we become subjects in relation to others and how unstable these positions always are. Through a sometimes ambivalent, sometimes flirtatious, loving or even colonizing position towards Wollstonecraft, the biographers constitute their own subjectivity. The biography slips into an autobiography. It has been claimed that for example Emma Goldman’s, at first sight conventional lecture on Wollstonecraft from 1911, in fact is one of Goldman’s most autobiographical texts.

Who Fooled Whom? functions as a collective narrative trying to decipher events that occurred in the summer months of 1795, but also functions as a metanarrative tracing a history of the legitimacy of feminist knowledge production.

list of the 28 cited texts

Who Fooled Whom? is a text piece in book form that in chronological order cites 28 different accounts pertaining to the actual reason for Wollstonecraft’s journey in Scandinavia 1795 – her search for a ship with a silver cargo, and her possible involvement in a smuggling affair regarding this silver. During the 217 years that have passed, different theories have been put forth but the case is still not solved and the silver is still missing. The first citation is from Wollstonecraft’s own travelogue, where the silver ship is not mentioned at all, but can be sensed in her strong critique of commercialism. The last citation is from a 2011 radio documentary.

Most biographers have chosen to concentrate on the unhappy love affair that Wollstonecraft was involved in during the trip, just a few bring to the fore Wollstonecraft’s critique of capitalism. Other authors concentrate only on the Silver Ship, a story that came to live its own life in Norway, where for a long time divers searched for its silver treasure on the bottom of the sea. In 1893, a local historian in Norway chose to exclude Wollstonecraft’s name in the story of the silver ship and it wasn’t until 1972 that the two stories were brought back together again.