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Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Science and Politics

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Abstract

It is often thought that the numerous contradictory perspectives in Margaret Cavendish’s writings demonstrate her inability to reconcile her feminism with her conservative, royalist politics. In this book Lisa Walters challenges this view and demonstrates that Cavendish’s ideas more closely resemble republican thought, and that her methodology is the foundation for subversive political, scientific and gender theories. With an interdisciplinary focus Walters closely examines Cavendish’s work and its context, providing the reader with an enriched understanding of women’s contribution to early modern scientific theory, political philosophy, culture and folklore. Considering also Cavendish’s ideas in relation to Hobbes and Paracelsus, this volume is of great interest to scholars and students of literature, philosophy, history of ideas, political theory, gender studies and history of science.
Article
On yedinci yüzyılın en üretken ve sıra dışı kadın figürlerinden biri olan Newcastle Düşesi Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) erkek egemen edebiyat dünyasında bir hayli eser yazmayı ve yayınlamayı başarır. Karşılaştığı tüm engellere rağmen, kendisinin olağanüstü hayal gücü, kadın yazarlar için uygun görülmeyen bilim alanına adım atması konusunda onu harekete geçirir. Özellikle, on yedinci yüzyıl filozofları ve bilim adamları tarafından yeniden canlandırılan atomizme ve materyalizme olan ilgiden hareketle, kendi evren anlayışını birbirinden ayrılmaz iki kavram olan “madde” ve “hareket” üzerinden sunar. Atomizmin, madde ve hareket gibi, sadece birkaç terminolojisini eserlerinde sıklıkla kullanırken bilimsel teori yerine hayal gücünü, yani doğuştan gelen zekâsını, kullanır çünkü onun için eserlerini yazmada strateji olarak kullandığı hayal gücü zihnindeki fiziksel hareketlere bağlıdır ve bu yüzden maddeseldir. Atomlar canlılığı bünyesinde barındırdığından, Cavendish “dirimselci materyalizmini” anlatmak için “Atom Şiirleri”ni yazarken tema olarak atomları seçer ve hatta onları kendi benliğinin bir metaforu olarak sunarak erkeklerin egemen olduğu bilimsel ve edebi camiada var olduğunu ileri sürer. Bu bağlamda bu makalenin amacı, Margaret Cavendish’in Poems, and Fancies (Şiirler ve Hayal Güçleri) (1653) adlı şiir kitabında yer alan “Atom Şiirleri”ni atomizmi kendi algıladığı hâliyle nasıl kullandığını göz önünde bulundurarak incelemektir ve nasıl hayalci bir üslupla yeni bir madde teorisi ortaya atarak aslında bin dokuz yüz doksanların ikinci yarısında adı konacak olan yeni materyalizm adlı teoriye ışık tuttuğunu göstermektir.
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The Blazing World was the first utopia in English written by a woman, and likely, the first science fiction text in English. Yet it was not Margaret Cavendish’s only utopic text. The separatist spaces of her plays, and the virtual communities of her epistolary collections, were earlier utopias that contributed to her construction of Blazing World. Cavendish established the characteristics of utopian literature through the transgression of categories and hybridity. I consider her blurring of genus, genre and gender in two of her utopic texts, Sociable Letters and Blazing World, and her strategic development of the blurring of these categories.
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The generation of animals was a difficult phenomenon to explain in the seventeenth century, having long been a problem in natural philosophy, theology, and medicine. In this paper, I explore how generation, understood as epigenesis, was directly related to an idea of rational nature. I examine epigenesis—the idea that the embryo was constructed part-by-part, over time—in the work of two seemingly dissimilar English philosophers: William Harvey, an eclectic Aristotelian, and Margaret Cavendish, a radical materialist. I chart the ways that they understood and explained epigenesis, given their differences in philosophy and ontology. I argue for the importance of ideas of harmony and order in structuring their accounts of generation as a rational process. I link their experiences during the English Civil war to how they see nature as a possible source for the rationality and concord sorely missing in human affairs.
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The empress of Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World dismisses pure mathematicians as a waste of her time, and declares of the applied mathematicians that “there [is] neither Truth nor Justice in their Profession”. In Cavendish’s theoretical work, she defends the Empress’ judgments. In this paper, I discuss Cavendish’s arguments against pure and applied mathematics. In Sect. 3, I develop an interpretation of some relevant parts of Cavendish’s metaphysics and epistemology, focusing on her anti-abstractionism and what I call her ’assimilation’ view of knowledge. In Sects. 4 and 5, I use this to develop Cavendish’s critiques of pure and applied mathematics, respectively. These critiques center on the claims that mathematics purports to describe non-beings, that nature is infinitely and irreducibly complex, and, perhaps most originally, that mathematical thinking (like other formal methods in philosophy) deforms the subject of representation, not just the object.
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The starting point of this article is an understudied piece of critical exegesis from 1657 titled Humble Reflections Upon Some Passages of the Right Honorable the Lady Marchionesse of Newcastles Olio. An obscure Englishwoman named Susan Du Verger composed this 164-page tract to refute a three-page essay on “A Monastical life” by the prolific poet, playwright, and philosopher, Margaret Cavendish. While there is now a substantial body of work on nuns and convents, this research largely overlooks how early modern women engaged with these topics in a scholarly manner. Along with elucidating the gamut of relevant patristic and ecclesiastical histories that were available in the English and French vernaculars, Humble Reflections provides a prompt for investigating Cavendish’s ideas on ecclesiastical order, ceremonies, and toleration. I propose that Cavendish refused to grace Du Verger with a direct response because her polemic disregarded the unofficial codes of conduct — friendship, transnational community, and inter-confessional co-existence — that were supposed to maintain peace within the Republic of Letters. In conclusion, this essay displays that Cavendish was actually a great admirer of monasticism, though not so much for its role in the spread of Christianity as for its place in the development of natural philosophy.
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Margaret Cavendish is known for her personal allegiance to monarchy in England. This is reflected in her writings; as Hobbes did, she tended to criticize severely any attempt at rebellion and did not think England could become a republic. Yet it seems that Cavendish did have sympathy with some republican values, in particular, as Lisa Walters has argued, with the republican concept of freedom as nondomination. How can we explain this apparent inconsistency? I believe that the answer lies in a lack of fit between the republican theories that were available to her and the values she accepted and according to which she was expected to live her life.
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At last, when the Duchess saw that no patterns would do her any good in framing her world; she resolved to make a world of her own invention, and this world was composed of sensitive and rational self-moving matter... which world after it was made, appeared so curious and full of variety, so well ordered and wisely governed, that it cannot possibly be expressed by words, nor the delight and pleasure which the Duchess took in making this world of her own. (BW, 188).
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This article critiques the ideological position of the practitioner in public administration research based on Lacanian psychoanalysis. A review of empirical focus of public administration research reveals that the practitioner serves as an imaginary ideal for researchers and provides them with the semblance of a “useful” disciplinary identity. Public administration researchers spend all their efforts trying to pander to this mythical practitioner who is supposed to save the helpless public. That is also the reason that the discipline is invested in cleansing the image of the practitioner by covering up or downplaying the negative aspects of administrative praxis. Lacanian psychoanalysis further suggests that despite this idealization, the practitioner neither possesses solutions to public problems nor can resolve the identity crisis of public administration. More importantly, this disciplinary ideal comes at the cost of limited theoretical and empirical engagement with the public, which has been marginalized in public administration research. Giving up this foundational fantasy, however, will require a fundamental reorientation of our disciplinary identity and research focus. Three critical operations (skepticism of grand imaginaries, direct engagement with the public, and a less judgmental research agenda) are cautiously suggested as a starting point in this regard.
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In the commemorative A Collection of Letters and Poems (1678), friends of Margaret Cavendish compare her thoughts to miracles, her texts to shrines, and her person to a nun. This essay argues that testimonials such as these represent the responses of willing participants in Cavendish’s fantasy about her own saintly status. Upholding the outward form of religion but not the substance, she seeks to establish her own cult of personality, whose members contribute new headspaces to serve as shrines for her iconographic, meme-like images. Rather than heaven, Cavendish seeks to be glorified in our heads in the here and now, trading transcendence for immanence as she attempts to “Live … in all Ages, and in every Brain” (Sociable Letters, 178). Her texts not only flirt with idolatry; they actively promote it by encouraging us to worship our mental images of her as solitary saint.
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Margaret Cavendish's prolific and wide-ranging contributions to seventeenth-century intellectual culture are impossible to contain within the discrete confines of modern academic disciplines. Paying attention to the innovative uses of genre through which she enhanced and complicated her writings both within literature and beyond, this collection addresses her oeuvre and offers the most comprehensive and multidisciplinary resource on Cavendish's works to date. The astonishing breadth of her varied intellectual achievements is reflected through elegantly arranged sections on History of Science, Philosophy, Literature, Politics and Reception, and New Directions, together with an Afterword by award-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt. The first book to cover nearly all of Cavendish's major works in a single volume, this collection brings together a variety of expert perspectives to illuminate the remarkable ideas and achievements of one of the most fascinating and prolific figures of the early modern period.
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Science fiction was used by Margaret Cavendish to highlight the negative—both present and potential—aspects of her time. In particular, she uses fiction to call into question the relation between power and scientific knowledge and to show that science could be allied to female power only if radically rethought. I will analyse The Blazing World in relation to Cavendish’s scientific theories and explore the theme of sexual difference. Furthermore, The Blazing World shows that, rather than scientific knowledge being objective truth, it has a definite political agenda, and it is the expression of a particular point of view. In this sense, The Blazing World binds to Cavendish’s philosophical reflections, highlighting how her criticism of the mechanistic approach and the experimental scientific method has important political and epistemological consequences, even for the contemporary feminist debate on science and knowledge.
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Accounts of the rhetorical tradition in early modern England often focus on the Royal Society of London and the scientific epistemologies and visual pedagogies surrounding technologies like the microscope. One critic of the Royal Society, Margaret Cavendish, theorized her own optics to counter the increasing exclusivity of the scientific community. An analysis of this woman’s optics reveals how the rhetorical concept of mimesis brought a theory of embodied, material sight to a historical moment in which objectivity was emerging. This critically imaginative analysis thus brings forth an early rhetorics of science in which alternative epistemologies may critique mechanical, experimental processes and argue for more inclusive scientific methods.
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The animals which appear in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) and Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666)1 illustrate the two authors’ very different ideas about the relationship humans have with nature. In this paper I will argue that the human-animal hybrid characters who are a memorable part of Cavendish’s story were in fact a response to and parody of Hooke’s drawings and descriptions of insects enlarged with a microscope. The two lots of creatures can be seen as emblems of conflicting ideas about the correct methodology for natural philosophy.
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This study aims to show how Margaret Cavendish's unprecedentedly self-affirming stance as a woman author is enabled by factors associated with her position as a displaced royalist during the 1650s. Her publication is initially catalysed by contact with royalist literary production in Interregnum London. Meanwhile, the setbacks suffered by her exiled husband provide one of a number of contexts in which her attention-seeking approach to publication might be construed as a form of legitimate self-display. The literature of feminine conduct also posits a connection between women's display and the maintenance of aristocratic authority rendered so vital for the wider body of royalists by their current political predicament. Even Cavendish's forthright statements of a desire for fame need not be seen to transgress feminine modesty if we regard her as drawing on the topical representational tradition of thefemme forte. Nevertheless, the changes in post-Restoration royalist culture necessitate alterations in her powerfully self-assertive authorial image.
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ELH 69.3 (2002) 649-672 When Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, published Observations on Experimental Philosophy in 1666, she became the first British woman to write and publish scientific work. Perhaps eager to demonstrate her knowledge of the newest scientific theories, Cavendish added a new section to the second edition of Observations in 1668, a section that responded, as Rosemary Kegl remarks, to current debates about racial origin, and in particular to the question of whether white and black men were descended from the same human ancestor—Adam. In the 1668 text, Cavendish argues that black men are not descended from Adam: "Blackmoors [are] a kind or race of men different from the White . . . For, if there were no differences in their productions, then would not onely all men be exactly like, but all Beasts also; that is, there would be no difference between a Horse and a Cow, a Cow and a Lyon, a Snake and an Oyster." The differences between white and black men are as pronounced as those between "a Horse and a Cow, and Cow and a Lyon." This statement appears to collapse two different senses of the word "race": species difference (like that between a "Horse and a Cow") and color difference. Equating species and color difference, Cavendish concludes that the "Blackmoors" are as different from "White" people as cows are from lions. But, as Kegl brilliantly observes, Cavendish's romantic utopia, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World, which was bound and published together with Observations, carefully distinguishes between race, meaning species difference, and race, meaning variants of skin-tone: The subjects of the Blazing World comprise people who are racially diverse in two different senses: they have skins of varying colors, and they belong to diverse species. Cavendish's romance thus "draws a distinction between difference based on species or complexion, understood as 'humours,' on the one hand, and difference based on complexion, understood as 'colour,' on the other." Kegl suggests that this apparent inconsistency on the subject of racial difference between Observations and Blazing World reflects seventeenth-century confusion about the meanings of both race and color, citing Samuel Pepys's appreciative description of Cavendish's "black" Italian waiting-woman, Ferrabosco, and of a little "black boy" who ran up and down the chamber when Cavendish visited the Royal Society. Pepys's editors gloss "black" as "brunette," but Samuel Mintz imagines the child to have been an "exotic graft in an English garden"; we have no way of knowing whether he was the black-haired son of a lady-in-waiting, or an African page. This cultural confusion about the meaning of skin-tone and its relationship to racial or species difference might contribute to Cavendish's fantastic Blazing World of colors, as Kegl proposes, but I would argue that Cavendish's riot of color is not a response to late seventeenth-century confusion about color as much as a romantic reply to the emerging pseudo-scientific discourse that did connect color with race. Pepys mused, "The whole story of this Lady is a romance, and all she doth is romantic"; Cavendish develops "romance" from "historicall reportes" or "historicall rimes," as George Puttenham has it, into what Thomas Blount defines as "a feigned History," the representation of an alternative universe, a history that is willfully and willingly imaginary. Throughout her romances, Cavendish briefly envisions situations in which the hierarchies of race and species...