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The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by [Cavendish, Margaret]
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The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Kindle Edition

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 263 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Product Description

Flamboyant, theatrical and ambitious, Margaret Cavendish was one of the seventeenth century's most striking figures: a woman who ventured into the male spheres of politics, science, philosophy and literature. The Blazing World is a highly original work: part Utopian fiction, part feminist text, it tells of a lady shipwrecked on the Blazing World where she is made Empress and uses her power to ensure that it is free of war, religious division and unfair sexual discrimination. This volume also includes The Contract, a romance in which love and law work harmoniously together, and Assaulted and Pursued Chastity, which explores the power and freedom a woman can achieve in the disguise of a man.

About the Author

Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623 - 1673). A Royalist during English Civil War, Margaret Lucas was Maid of Honor to Queen Henrietta Maria from 1643 to 1645. She wrote a total of fourteen works on a broad selection of topics: scientific and philosophical treatises, science fiction, a biography, an autobiography, essays, letters, poetry, "orations", and several plays. Kate Lilley was born in Perth. She completed her doctorate on Masculine Elegy at the University of London and went on to postdoctoral research at St Hilda's College, Oxford as the Julia Mann Junior Research Fellow. She now teaches Literary History and Critical Theory at the University of Sydney. She has published many essays on contemporary Australian and American poetry, especially the work of John Tranter, and on 17th century women's writing.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 820 KB
  • Print Length: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (March 31 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9H20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #417,305 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My review concerns only The Blazing World section of this book. It is an interesting, not often-read 17th-century Utopia/Romance/Autobiography by one of the century's more controversial authors. Unfortunately, this edition suffers from numerous transcription/digitization errors ('them' is rendered as 'diem' on several occasions) and frankly somewhat lazy annotations. Indeed, aside from a few points offering definitions of slightly-obscure words, there appeared to be almost no annotations in the text. The editor offers no discussion of the Hobbesian influences found throughout the text, or of the contemporary debates regarding helio-centric and geo-centric models of the solar system, which are referenced several times in the text. The introduction outlines some of the autobiographical elements of the text, but offers only a few annotations of the text's significant autobiographical content. Obviously there is a balance to be struck in terms of annotations and clean reading, but with the text freely available from numerous sources online, I feel the editors have to offer a little bit more in terms of notes to make this purchase worthwhile.
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Format: Paperback
Margaret Cavendish was the first woman to publish prolifically under her own name, but has been largely forgotten until very recently, with certain of her works coming back in to print for almost the first time since their release in the 17th century. Among them is The Blazing World, one of the most diverse works I have ever read, especially from a 17th century writer. Cavendish throws in practically every genre of her day into one book (barring drama and poetry), making for a unique read. Adventure/sci fi blends into a scientific Utopia a la Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, and moves further into classical and modern philosophy before finally returning to adventure/fantasy, and even autobiography as the author introduces herself as a character. Some of these concepts work better than others, with the more scientific sections being quite tedious at times (again a la Bacon), but also makes for interesting combinations, as she explores Neo Platonism in a fantasy context, with the souls of "Platonic friends" travelling freely of their bodies to visit friends in other worlds, a la Obi Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back. Most of Cavendish's ideas on their own are not particularly original, but come together in entertaining ways in this book. Perhaps the concept that worked best here is the overall theme of writing as wish fulfillment, as Cavendish creates a world where her personal wishes and fantasies come true in a light hearted way. This is the earliest novel in which I have felt a great sense of the author looking back out at the reader in a Ferris Bueller, tongue in cheek fashion, much like Virginia Woolf's Orlando, a novel written by an author who was certainly familiar with, and influenced by, Cavendish's work. And yes, this is definitely a novel, just as much as Defoe's dreary Robinson Crusoe is a novel, if not more so. And a much wittier novel at that.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa29c5438) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa29eaca8) out of 5 stars Kindle version needs some work Aug. 23 2011
By William Barker - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is specifically a reaction to the Kindle edition of Cavendish, which I just purchased (23 August 2011). Two obvious typos in my first 30 seconds of reading (locations 193, 2794). Come on Penguin! If you are going to be a serious leader in ebooks, clean things up. You are doing better than most, but your work is still sub-standard. Etexts should now be of the same quality as print. This is no reflection on the work of Kate Lilley the editor, or on the fascinating concoction of Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World, but on the sloppy conversion of this text. For prospective purchasers of this Kindle texts, I think despite my complaint you can go ahead. The book is readable, despite a few font errors and some obvious typos. It's not as bad as the Penguin Chaucer and some of the other poetry texts. My complaint is directly to the publisher, and I am probably wasting my time. Yet, without criticism, there will be no improvement.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2a73a50) out of 5 stars Early Science Fiction Paves Way for a Utopian Modern World July 28 2014
By nmehta93 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Reading any type of 17th century literature in the 21st century creates a unique perspective. In particular, The Description of a New World allows for appreciation for Margaret Cavendish’s bold attempt to empower women and set precedent for female writers to be creative. It is a story that starts somewhat romantically: a merchant kidnaps a lady he is in love with, but progresses to the merchant dying whilst doing so, only for the lady to be shipwrecked to another world. Quickly made Empress of this “blazing world”, she is able to engage in philosophical and intellectual discourse with the new world’s inhabitants. Throughout the story, you are able to identify the symbolic importance of this science fiction utopian society and its connection to Cavendish’s realistic hopes of encouraging creativity among women. By explaining this other world with utmost detail she is able to give a plausible outlook on a society where a woman is respected and trusted with power.
It is helpful to understand a little biographical information about Margaret Cavendish. She lived through the civil war in England, and was eventually separated from her family—which gives an interesting perspective of how the heroine in The Description of a New World was stripped from her home and family, stranded to an unfamiliar world. Although often criticized for her work, she wrote true to her beliefs and interests. She was fascinated with science, believed in a monarchy (evident also through this piece of literature), and most importantly believed in her potential as a woman to be regarded as an intellectual. With interesting opening remarks from her husband, William Newcastle, and Cavendish herself, it is evident that although her world is fictional, it is one where women can relate to and even strive for. Her tone throughout the piece is worthy of study. The Empress makes a series of inquiries of this New World, which could suggest encouragement for women to understand the world around them and not simply accept the way it exists. A clear beacon of early feminism, The Description of the New World, paves way for a female protagonist to become a model for 17th century women.
The story is not written in modern English and often uses unfamiliar rhetoric. Although a bit tedious and difficult to read, I found its significance charming. From a student’s perspective, it isn’t exactly a thriller to keep you “on the edge of your seat”. However, from a woman’s perspective, it gives insight to the creative setbacks that 17th century women encountered and respect to Cavendish’s literary courage. It can seem a bit radical for the time period, thus is open to interpretation: it could be a clever attempt for inventing a modern world or a disregard to 1666 reality.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa28d9480) out of 5 stars Science Fiction Sets Up Foundation for Feminism July 30 2014
By Stephan Dowless - Published on
Format: Paperback
Margaret Cavendish was an influential female author of the 17th century, whose literal works were a means of conveying not just her aspiration for fame and power, but her desire for the betterment of female standing in a male dominated society. In The Blazing World, we are presented with an interesting combination of themes, of which include science, discovery and exploration, imperialism and more. Cavendish creates a utopian society with interesting characteristics that reflect upon how she think the world should work, using elements of fantasy and realism to do so, which makes the reading both interesting and thought provoking.
It is easy however to become frustrated with the reading, and at times uninterested. It is written in Old English, and it goes without saying that not all things translate well to contemporary languages. This convolutes some of the ideas the author tries to get across, and makes the reading somewhat difficult. It is however worth pushing through, as the book is eloquently written, and has a way of charming the reader with its fantastic elements and intelligent metaphors. The author’s emphasis of the importance and power of imagination over the simplicity of tangible and material things is even inspiring. It relates well to real world issues and presents logical and intriguing ideas for how a society could potentially work. In addition, her use of science and objectivity help to keep the text from straying too far from reason, and strengthens the points made by the author, as they are essentially unbiased and logical. Given the time period and existing gender roles of women, subtlety was imperative. Cavendish does a wonderful job in conveying her aspirations for the betterment of women through the cover of a utopian society and imaginary figures. The metaphors are not however overly obscure, and are easily relatable to her real world expectations for society. While some of these metaphors can come across as somewhat extreme, one must take into consideration the social standing of women at the time, and the desire of fame and power that the author arguably possessed.
The fact that the piece is still around today is a testament to its timelessness as well. Cavendish use of dialogue amongst certain characters promotes the individual to question existing societal norms and values, something that can be appreciated by a society as a whole. Using literature as her means for expressing her desire for change, Cavendish is largely considered to be one of the earliest pioneers of feminism. Her love for science and reason, combined with her insightful ideas, maturity and elegant writing style really make for an interesting read to say the least. The challenge and frustration the reader is faced with given the style of writing is easily trumped by what the text represents as whole. The elements of fantasy will by no means blow your mind, but they certainly stimulate the imagination, and are balanced well with the contrast offered by science and reason. Overall, it was an interesting and thought provoking piece of literature, and one can certainly appreciate the literary courage of the author, and the importance of her place in history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2779984) out of 5 stars The Blazing World: Utopia, Feminist Prose, and Pioneer in Science Fiction July 28 2014
By Catherine Godley - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
“A Merchant travelling into a foreign Country, fell extremely in Love with a young Lady…” writes Margaret Cavendish in the opening sentence of The Blazing-World. Though this sounds like the introduction to a typical love story, the book quickly proves itself to be something entirely different. Cavendish details the Lady’s kidnapping, shipwreck, and rescue by strange creatures, half animal half human, in a foreign land named the Blazing World. As one of the pioneers in the genre of science fiction, Cavendish gives remarkable descriptions of the new world and of its inhabitants through the Lady, who soon becomes the world’s Empress, and her unrelenting curiosity. This is remarkable for two reasons. Firstly, though written in the seventeenth century during the Scientific Revolution, as a woman, it is surprising both that Cavendish made the decision to delve deeply into scientific thought, and that she was educated enough to do so. The second reason is what sets The Blazing-World apart as a feminist utopia; not only does she include long passages filled with questions about how the world works, she also uses a female protagonist to do so.
After being granted unlimited power to rule as she pleases through marriage to the Emperor, made possible by Cavendish’s creation of a world unlimited by gender stereotypes, the Empress calls together each species on the Blazing-World and divides them into the societies for which they are most suited. Through her discourse with each species, the Empress explores philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, politics, mathematics, and religion, among other things. Though some of the explanations Cavendish writes are long winded and at times dry, they show the great effort to make the world realistic; the world she has created may be fantasy, but Cavendish uses it as an outlet to explore topics relevant to her world and culture at the time in a way she would not have been able otherwise.
After a discussion regarding religion, the Empress comes into contact with beings she calls ‘immaterial spirits,’ and though the plot slows at this point, it begins to pick up pace when Cavendish introduces herself as a character in the novel; the Duchess of Newcastle’s soul visits the Empress in the Blazing-World and engages in a discussion of building worlds in fictional literature, transforming the work once again into something vaguely autobiographical. Upon hearing that her home world is being disrupted by war, the Empress uses her wits and logic to devise a plan, travel to her world, install an absolute monarchy, and bring peace before returning to the Blazing-World. Through this plot point, Cavendish explores the ideal government while indicating the capability for female leadership and success.
I read The Blazing-World as a requirement for an English class, and in the context of feminist and utopian prose, it is my opinion that this novel is a must read. While it uses somewhat archaic language and is at times dense, Cavendish offers quite a bit to ponder in her work. I echo my own sentiments as well as those of several other reviewers who would draw parallels between this work and the later feminist science fiction writer Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein. One thing to keep in mind when reading The Blazing-World is Cavendish’s tendency to reference scientific discoveries, theory, and philosophical arguments specific to the time period. During my reading, I found that though I did not understand every reference Cavendish made, a brief understanding of her background and the Scientific Revolution was enough to guide me through the book. Cavendish’s striking realism serves to further her point regarding the power of literature as empowerment for women, and renders The Blazing-World an interesting and important read for those seeking to understand the time period (particularly for women) or the origins of science fiction.
My advice? Read the book. Don’t be discouraged by the long paragraphs filled with difficult jargon; when read slowly and thoughtfully, they offer quite a bit of material to ponder. The Blazing-World has many facets; it can be read as a feminist utopia, a work of science fiction, a romance, an adventure, and an inquiry into science and philosophy, all of which make it a unique and worthwhile read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa29ca27c) out of 5 stars The Blazing World: A Groundbreaking Feminist Utopia July 27 2014
By Tarsilla - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World is a powerful text, progressive and assertive due to its bold proclamations that the world can be a better place. I read Cavendish’s novel for the first time as an English class assignment, and the scholarly context of my course allowed me to absorb Cavendish’s writing as the forward utopian feminist worldview that it is. Through clever rhetorical tools, strong feminist tendencies, and pioneering story-telling, Cavendish establishes a solid platform for revolution, and inspires a spark of feminist thought scholars and fellow writers can still refer to today.
One of Cavendish’s most intelligent rhetorical methods is evoking historic figures, male historic figures, in her Introduction and Epilogue in order to formulate her own credibility. Cavendish introduces powerful names, that most of her readers would recognize, as a way to influence her readers to associate her image with these great figures of history. What that does is establish a source of ethos for Cavendish that paves the way for the eventual acceptance of her radical utopian ideas. This connection between her persona as an author and these great men reinforces the notion that her work should be taken seriously, and not easily dismissed just for the fact that she is a woman.
Another one of Cavendish’s great rhetoric employments in this text is her constant questioning of what works and what doesn’t work in her utopian world. There are many challenges in the text posed by the female protagonist that are crucial in grounding Cavendish’s utopia in a conceivable reality. I found this writing mechanism to be a very effective way to establish Cavendish’s critical worldview as an attainable truth, as a way of life that we all can aspire to. What follows then, is the creation of the revolutionary idea that the world can function better; and the way the world can improve is by having women in decision-making roles in its society. That’s why it is important to note that it is a woman who reaches this new world, and questions, judges, and modifies its working order. The female protagonist in The Blazing World is not just a conduit for a sci-fi adventure; she becomes a literary representation of the role of women in a perfect world. There, women are wise, practical, and powerful, which is to say, the complete opposite of how our patriarchal society view women, especially in Cavendish’s lifetime. She inserts her protagonist in a position of control in order to show that women in influential, political roles are the answer for an improved version of our corrupt patriarchy.
One small criticism I have for her novel is the alien nature of the alternate world Cavendish creates. Even though Cavendish’s work is a literary framework, a pioneering force of feminist thought and of science fiction as a genre, her utopian reality is so radical, it risks breaking the tenuous connection to her 17th century reality she so carefully builds throughout the story. To me, her attempts to ground her story and validate her views through ethos and realism are effective, but only because I am reading her work from a 21st century perspective. Cavendish’s present audience of feminists, scholars, science fiction enthusiasts, and so forth, are better equipped to absorb and accept the far-reaching nature of her writing, but that is not necessarily true for her readers of the past. Still, that is only a testament to how enlightened The Blazing World is. I highly recommend this text, and Margaret Cavendish’s other works, to everyone who’s interested in studying the writings of a woman who was truly ahead of her time.