12th International IDEA Conference: Studies in English, Antalya, Türkiye, 18 - 20 Nisan 2018
Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) is one of the most noteworthy figures in British science and literature. She was interested in the scientific developments of the seventeenth century and became the first woman to attend one of the meetings of the Royal Society of London (RSL) and the first to criticize their ideas and practices. As in the case of other female writers of seventeenth century, however, Cavendish’s works did not get as much attention as the works of male authors. Written six years after the establishment of RSL, The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World (1666) was one of those underrated works and it was initially criticized as being naïve and illogical because of the ambiguities in its plot. It is true that the text has contradicting elements, but its ambiguity cannot be associated with pure naïvete. On the contrary, its disruption of rational thought and inclusion of fantastic elements along with scientific explanations give it a rebellious outlook. The plot of The Blazing World is decentered and loose, unlike male utopias – such as The New Atlantis – which are focused on celebrating human progress. The Blazing World is a complex, multilayered, and hybrid text just as the hybrid creatures it contains. Their chaotic structure can indeed be read as a resistance against and satirical criticism of the scientific practices of male circles such as that of RSL. As such, this paper argues that The Blazing World undermines the utopian tradition established by male authors and produces a chaotic subversion of the “rational and progressive” theories and practices of seventeenth-century natural philosophers.