No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Kindle Edition
|New from||Used from|
50 Kindle Books for $2 Each
Treat yourself to a new book. These 50 Kindle titles are just $2 each through the end of the month. Learn more
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics
- Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Movements & Periods > Renaissance
- Books > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories
- Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy
- Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Short Stories
- Kindle Store > English Language Store
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Myths & Legends > Celtic, English & Welsh