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 Th e Blazing World: Natural Art and the Body Politic,” Studies in Philology 96, no. 4 (1999): 457–79. Chapter 9 ...
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 prolifi c women authors of seventeenth-century England. Th eir writings—prose narratives, plays, poems—seek to widen the narrow room granted women by patriarchal tradition. However, the question of female emancipation is complicated ...
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 Th e Female Academy. Th ese plays clearly lay out the confl ict of a group of self-fashioning women confi ned by male-defi ned gender roles. Cavendish queries the terms of a viable agreement. Th e women’s plight fi nds an analogue in much utopian literature: the desire ...
3. The Blazing World (1666): “Nature tends to Unity”
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Utopian negotiation takes place on a more comprehensive scale in Th e Blazing World than in Bell in Campo and Th e Female Academy. All three deal with female self-fashioning, but Th e Blazing World goes further and incorporates it into the extended arrangements of a utopian regime. Th ere is another diff erence: the protagonist is a woman who has risen to power. ...
4. The Convent of Pleasure (1668): Cross-gendering Negotiation
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Th e Convent of Pleasure continues the exploration of a widened range of the female self, but with a diff erence. It dwells more on the women’s rich life of the senses. Th at, however, is not the whole truth, for the women also want a more masculine, rational role. Th e protagonist Lady Happy thus retreats from male constraint into a convent with a group of noblewomen, ...
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Th e 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. Th ey at once suggest her unresolved position in a changing world and refl ect the ideological uncertainty of her time. In this situation, however, her writing ...
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 ratio-nal, natural motions, is lacking. Th e voyage to the remote Isle of Love still involves a quest for an ideal conciliation in the image of a restored Golden Age. Lisander,3 a refugee from social pressure, is in search of ...
7. “The Golden Age” (1684): Feminized Reciprocity as Social Model
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Behn’s 198-line poem “Th e Golden Age. A Paraphrase on a Translation out of French” engages with the same confl ict of power as Th e Isle of Love and Lycidus. Yet the diff erence is that “Th e Golden Age” presents utopian desire fulfi lled, though on a smaller pastoral scale. Th e poem fashions an imaginary setting of origins, depicting a harmonious exchange between ...
8. The Emperor of the Moon (1687): Common Sense, Natural Vision, and Tempered Utopianism
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Lisander in Th e Isle of Love aims for divine heights together with Aminta, but blinded by his obsession falls to the ground. Heaven and earth remain unreconciled. “Th e Golden Age,” however, tempers the passionate con-queror, soft ens his masculinity and joins noble swains with regenerative femininity. Both works carry an awareness that harmony cannot depart ...
9. Oroonoko (1688): The Crisis of Ideologies in Restoration England
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Oroonoko: Or, Th e Royal Slave makes gestures toward a more fulfi lling state of being. Th e 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. However, the jealous, aging King regards his grandson’s desire as subversive and intervenes to main-...
10. The Widow Ranter (1689) and The Rover (1677): Honor in the New World
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Behn’s play Th e Widow Ranter1 deals with the escapades of the English General Bacon in colonial Virginia. Bacon’s interests, like Oroonoko’s, seem divided. Th e romantically inspired Oroonoko, demoted to a slave, asserts his royal prerogative as leader of his fellow slaves; Bacon, a man on the rise who possesses heroic aspirations, fi gures as the democratically ...
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Criticism on Behn and Cavendish has generally focused on only a few of the major texts: typically Cavendish’s Th e Blazing World and Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, and Behn’s Th e Rover and Oroonoko. Th ese works have in turn tended to appeal to a specifi c set of interests: the rela-tion of Cavendish’s natural philosophy to the history of science, or the ...
Appendixes Works Cited Index
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Back Flap, Back Cover
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Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2013
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