3: Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World, 1666.

Our first Utopia in this course authored by a woman; Cavendish imaginatively constructs a space-faring absolutist utopian society which a fictional version of herself effectively conquers in order to bring retroactive justice to Restoration England. Part wish-fulfilment, part savage criticism of the post-Civil War settlement, Blazing World ignites a new strand of Utopian thinking premised on the immediate goals of power and politics.

Food for Thought:
Basically in the form of a dialogue or inquiry by ‘the Empress’ into the affairs of the various kingdoms of intelligent animals; what might we learn about Cavendish’s views on science (or ‘natural philosophy’), gender roles, and politics, from an engagement with this text?

Required Reading:

Margaret Cavendish, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World (Women Writers Online Edition, or UPenn Edition, or EEBO), 1666–.

Lisa Walters, Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Science and Politics (CUP, 2014). Principally the Introduction, but all chapters are relevant.

Further Reading:

Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten (eds). Utopian and science fiction by women: worlds of difference (Liverpool University Press, 1994). Particularly: ‘The subject of Utopia: Margaret Cavendish and her Blazing-World’ by Lee Cullen Khanna.

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