Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Syracuse University Press
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Front Flap, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author
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Part of chapter 2 appeared in an earlier form in my article “Fighting the Kingdom of Faction in Bell in Campo,” Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue (2004): 5.1–25. Much of chapter 3 is based on material used in my article “Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World: Natural Art and the Body Politic,” ...
1. Introduction: Negotiating Utopia
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Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673) and Aphra Behn (1640–1689) are now celebrated as two of the boldest, most prolific women authors of seventeenth-century England. Their writings—prose narratives, plays, poems—seek to widen the narrow room granted women by patriarchal tradition. ...
2. Bell in Campo and The Female Academy (1662): Female Wit in the “Theatre of Warr”
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A discussion of Cavendish’s utopian negotiation starts best with a study of Bell in Campo and The Female Academy. These plays clearly lay out the conflict of a group of self-fashioning women confined by male-defined gender roles. Cavendish queries the terms of a viable agreement. ...
3. The Blazing World (1666): “Nature tends to Unity”
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Utopian negotiation takes place on a more comprehensive scale in The Blazing World than in Bell in Campo and The Female Academy. All three deal with female self-fashioning, but The Blazing World goes further and incorporates it into the extended arrangements of a utopian regime. ...
4. The Convent of Pleasure (1668): Cross-gendering Negotiation
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The Convent of Pleasure continues the exploration of a widened range of the female self, but with a difference. It dwells more on the women’s rich life of the senses. That, however, is not the whole truth, for the women also want a more masculine, rational role. ...
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The preceding discussion has described Cavendish’s advocacy of female emancipation, her political conservatism, and her natural philosophy. Her gender struggle and royalism do not seem immediately compatible. They at once suggest her unresolved position in a changing world and reflect the ideological uncertainty of her time. ...
6. A Voyage to the Isle of Love (1684) and Lycidus (1688): A “Truce” with “Unhappy Eyes”
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A Voyage to the Isle of Love1 and Lycidus2 enact an unreconciled state between erotic and spiritual love. Mediating free will, nurtured by rational, natural motions, is lacking. The voyage to the remote Isle of Love still involves a quest for an ideal conciliation in the image of a restored Golden Age. ...
7. “The Golden Age” (1684): Feminized Reciprocity as Social Model
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Behn’s 198-line poem “The Golden Age. A Paraphrase on a Translation out of French” engages with the same conflict of power as The Isle of Love and Lycidus. Yet the difference is that “The Golden Age” presents utopian desire fulfilled, though on a smaller pastoral scale. ...
8. The Emperor of the Moon (1687): Common Sense, Natural Vision, and Tempered Utopianism
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Lisander in The Isle of Love aims for divine heights together with Aminta, but blinded by his obsession falls to the ground. Heaven and earth remain unreconciled. “The Golden Age,” however, tempers the passionate conqueror, softens his masculinity and joins noble swains with regenerative femininity. ...
9. Oroonoko (1688): The Crisis of Ideologies in Restoration England
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Oroonoko: Or, The Royal Slave makes gestures toward a more fulfilling state of being. The protagonist Oroonoko pursues heavenly love with Imoinda; together they are like Mars and Venus (12), the counterparts of the Prince and Lady Happy as Neptune and a sea goddess. ...
10. The Widow Ranter (1689) and The Rover (1677): Honor in the New World
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Behn’s play The Widow Ranter1 deals with the escapades of the English General Bacon in colonial Virginia. Bacon’s interests, like Oroonoko’s, seem divided. The romantically inspired Oroonoko, demoted to a slave, asserts his royal prerogative as leader of his fellow slaves; ...
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Criticism on Behn and Cavendish has generally focused on only a few of the major texts: typically Cavendish’s The Blazing World and Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, and Behn’s The Rover and Oroonoko. These works have in turn tended to appeal to a specific set of interests: ...
Appendixes Works Cited Index
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Back Flap, Back Cover
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Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2013