Thursday, October 13, 2005

Margaret Cavendish

“The Blazing World” which Cavendish described was interesting. Her characters and their functions were unusual. For example, when she described the list of the people of that world “…Some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish or mer-men, otherwise called sirens, some bird-men, some fly-men, some ant-men…” (Cavendish, excerpt 15). As a new Empress of the Blazing World she attempted to arrange the world for the better based on what she knew about the real world she had lived in. Although she could claim to have some ability to do this, it seemed apparent that some of the actions were arbitrary and despite her subjects praise, lacked any important or lasting outcome. The purpose of her writing became more unclear as she moved between the Blazing World and her natural world. Cavendish became even more confusing when she entered the mind of the Duke following the Duchess; “And then the Duke had threw souls in one body” (Cavendish, 32). Overall, I was dissatisfied that there did not seem to be any significant outcome of her writing after leading the reader on such a fanciful journey.

The liberating language that Cavendish used for women in “Female Orations” grabbed my attention. I thought it was interesting how each orator responded to the former orator as each presented their argument concerning the state of women. This was an effective conversation that outlined several perspectives. Cavendish brought some balance to the severe criticism of men. For example, one orator pointed out that men that ‘admire’ women should not be regarded negatively; “but we have no reason to speak against men, who are our admirers and lovers;” (Cavendish, section III). She indicated the importance of men and that it is natural for women to “…love men, praise men, and pray for men; for without men, we should be the most miserable creatures that Nature hath made or could make” (Cavendish, section III). Also, placing full blame on men or ‘Nature’ does little to bring resolution or direction in life. I was pleased that she indicated that women should not simply become like men but can live vitally as their own person while cooperating with men and still be “pleasing to God and men” (Cavendish, V).

The comparisons that Cavendish discussed in “Nature’s Cook” were a bit disgusting. This was especially true when she described food and awful diseases in relation to one and another. Her descriptions about body parts, ulcers, ‘gravie’, pox, chops and flesh made the poem very graphic. To some extent, this could be seen as a form of ‘black humour.’ Cavendish’ descriptions about death were exaggerated and emphasized the hopelessness and suffering that could be part of the lives of some of her readers. I found this depressing and do not agree with her overwhelmingly negative descriptions of the human condition and death.


Blogger Miriam Jones said...

Janet, not related to Cavendish: I posted your project on Wollstonecraft on the course page, but one file seems to have been corrupted. Could you have a look and maybe send me another copy?

Re. Blazing World: yes, we didn't really talk about this in class, but Cavendish more or less admitted at the end that the whole thing was a fantasy world for her own enjoyment.

Re. the orations: you have picked up on a real distinction between the proto-feminism of Cavendish's day, and current thought.

Re. the poem: you know, I don't even know that she felt any humour, black or otherwise. Perhaps I am unfair, but I have always imagined her as fairly humourless.

7:20 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home