1st Edition

Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England, 1550-1700 Volume 7: Margaret Cavendish

Edited By Sara H. Mendelson Copyright 2009

    A maverick in her own time, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673) was dismissed for three centuries as an eccentric crank. Yet the past few decades have witnessed a true renaissance in Cavendish studies, as scholars from diverse academic disciplines produce books, articles and theses on every aspect of her oeuvre. Cavendish's literary creations hold a wide appeal for modern readers because of her talent for thinking outside the rigid box that delimited the hierarchies of class, race and gender in seventeenth-century Europe. In so doing, she challenged the ultimate building blocks of early modern society, whether the tenets of Christianity, the social and political imperatives of patriarchy, or the arrogant claims of the new Baconian science. At the same time, Cavendish offers keen insights into current social issues. Her works have become a springboard for critical discourse on such topics as the nature of gender difference and the role of science in human life. Sara Mendelson's aim in compiling this volume is to convey to readers some idea of the scope and variety of scholarship on Cavendish, not only in terms of dominant themes, but of critical controversies and intriguing new pathways for investigation.

    Contents: Introduction; Selected bibliography; Chronology; Part I Self-Fashioning as a Female Writer: The spider’s delight: Margaret Cavendish and the ’female’ imagination, Sylvia Bowerbank; Margaret Cavendish on her own writing: evidence from revision and handmade correction, James Fitzmaurice; Dismantling the myth of ’Mad Madge’: the cultural context of Margaret Cavendish’s authorial self-presentation, Hero Chalmers. Part II Genres: Essays and Drama: Margaret Cavendish and the female satirist, Mihoko Suzuki; ’Our wits joined as in matrimony’: Margaret Cavendish’s Playes and the drama of authority, Karen L. Raber; Margaret Cavendish and the theatre of war, Alexandra G. Bennett; Margaret Cavendish’s dramatic Utopias and the politics of gender, Erin Lang Bonin. Part III Natural Philosophy: A science turned upside down: feminism and the natural philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, Lisa T. Sarasohn; The mechanist-vitalist soul of Margaret Cavendish, Jay Stevenson; Producing petty gods: Margaret Cavendish’s critique of experimental science, Eve Keller; In dialogue with Thomas Hobbes: Margaret Cavendish’s natural philosophy, Sarah Hutton; The philosophical innovations of Margaret Cavendish, Susan James; ’Plain and vulgarly express’d’: Margaret Cavendish and the discourse of the new science, Richard Nate; Gender subversion in the science of Margaret Cavendish, Lisa Walters; Mad science beyond flattery: the correspondence of Margaret Cavendish and Constantijn Huygens, Nadine Akkerman and Marguérite Corporaal. Part IV The Blazing World: New Trends in Cavendish Scholarship: Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World: natural art and the body politic, Oddvar Holmesland; Royalist, romancist, racialist: rank, gender and race in the science and fiction of Margaret Cavendish, Sujata Iyengar; Margaret Cavendish, scribe, Jonathan Goldberg; The city of chance, or, Margaret Cavendish’s theory of radical symmetry, B.R. Siegfried; Index.


    Sara H. Mendelson is a Professor of History, Arts & Sciences Program at McMaster University, Canada.