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The Blazing World - A Romance Issue

posted Sep 15, 2010, 10:35 AM by

We discussed in class the other day that Margaret Cavendish had been known to caution women against reading too much literature that fell into the romance category.  This in mind, I would like to reflect on a passage in The Blazing World where there is a favor expressed towards such literature.  On page 183 the Empress is speaking to the spirit of the Duchess about making different types of Cabbalas.  The Empress suggests a philosophical, moral, or political Cabbala, but the Duchess gives reasons for these types being of no use (basically that all of those subjects were common knowledge in the world that they were in).

The Duchess then suggests a “poetical or romancical Cabbala, wherein you use metaphors, allegories, similitudes, etc. and interpret them as you please.”  The Empress thanks the Duchess and told her she would take her advice. 

This presents several problems, the first being that Cavendish as a person was known to be against romance as a genre because it led people (her concern was mostly with women) too far from rational thought.  Why would Cavendish have the Duchess make this suggestion, then?  Also, the Empress’s reaction was quite surprising because she did question it and seemed happy to write about something in which she had no previous interest.  Could this be a gender issue?  I think that this could be playing into the stereotype that women were seen as irrational creatures (at least compared to men), but why would Cavendish want to support such an idea being that she is a woman?