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Library Catalog No. DTB1990

An Early Challenge to the Precepts and Practice of Modern Science: The Fusion of Fact, Fiction, and Feminism in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623–1673). PhD diss. University of California, San Diego, 1990. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1990. 9023994.
(typescript, 312+ pages, in 12 sections)

by Deborah Bazeley

e-Copyright © 2004–2017 < http://she-philosopher.com/library.html >

First Issued:  March 2004 (in 12 sections)
Reissued:  21 August 2012
Revised (substantive):  n/a

Part I: Editor’s Introduction to doctoral dissertation

decorative initial MY DOCTORAL dissertation (University of California, San Diego, 1990) on Margaret Cavendish was primarily a rhetorical study, in which I argued that Cavendish championed:

... a new rhetorical model (“natural rational discourse”) that is at base heuristic rather than positivist. Her discourse is raw and unprocessed, exploratory, unfinished, with no clear beginning, middle, or end. It depicts a complex matrix of shifting perspectives and ways of knowing, employing a cumulative syntax, focused on plurality and juxtaposition, rather than the more conventional subordinate syntax, which pre-classifies information for the reader within circumscribed lines and hierarchies.

And I compared Cavendish’s “refusal to elide self, gender, sentiment, imagination, and wild speculation from technical discourse” to the alternate New Science rhetorics of Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Joseph Glanvill, Henry More, Thomas Sprat, and Francis Bacon.

While my basic thinking concerning the epistemological dimension of Cavendish’s naturalist rhetoric as an art of reason and discovery hasn’t changed, I no longer hold with many of the positions taken in the dissertation. For instance, the dissertation makes frequent mention of institutionalized science’s androcentric and authoritarian methods and discourses, with Cavendish portrayed as an oppositional or alternative voice to that of Bacon and succeeding generations of Baconians. But my ongoing research shows this to have been an incomplete, and in many ways misleading, reading of what was a remarkably heterogeneous New Science movement. In particular, I’m sorry to say that I grossly misjudged Robert Hooke, about whom I knew very little at the time. Looking for gender bias in Hooke’s science, and for confirmation of Cavendish’s critique of his technologically-mediated nanogaze, I managed to locate both in Hooke’s Micrographia (a good example of the sort of reasoning Cavendish herself opposed as “vain in-bred imaginations, without the experience of the concurrence of outward things”). Having long since parted with received opinion concerning 17th-century mechanism and its dualisms, I have tried to remedy my earlier misjudgments of the man and his work with a recent series of monographs. One of these (Time, Soul, Memory) is already available in the She-philosopher.com Library, and the rest in the series will be posted to the Library, or to the PLAYERS section on Robert Hooke, as they are finished.

In addition to several such errors in judgment, the dissertation contains a few errors of fact. As far as I know, these are restricted to chapter 1, where I stated incorrectly that Sir Charles Cavendish was William Cavendish’s older brother. Sir Charles was, in fact, William’s younger brother, although William did have an older brother, also named Charles, who died in childhood (hence, scholars’ repeated confusion on this point). I also confused Constantijn Heer Van Zuilichem Huygens (1596–1687) with his son, Christiaan (1629–1695). It was, in fact, Christian Huygens who was “one of the most brilliant of seventeenth-century scientists,” and his father, Constantine, who “valued Cavendish’s opinion on scientific questions,” as indeed, he did the opinion of other learned women, including the very talented Anna Maria van Schurman.

I reformatted the text of the dissertation for HTML publication in 2004, omitting page numbers, adding active links for the section numbers, and moving footnotes to a sidebar on the right of the page, with links to/from the text to which notes refer. No changes have been made to the content of the UMI-published dissertation. Even the HTML-friendly section numbers, and in-text section references, are as they were in the original.

Tail-piece from William Cuningham's _The Cosmographical Glasse_ (London, 1559)

NOTE: The digital edition of Bazeley’s dissertation (in Part II) has not yet been updated. It retains the original format and styling of the first issue of the HTML transcript in 2004. To learn more about 2012 changes to e-publication formats, visit She-philosopher.com’s “A Note on Site Design” page.

Part II: digital edn. of Library Cat. No. DTB1990 pointer

or Go Directly to a particular section:

  Abstract (9KB)

  Table of Contents (29KB)

  Preface (17KB)

  Chapter 1 — Introduction (107KB)

  Chapter 2 — The Feminist Problematic (225KB)

  Chapter 3 — The “Triangular Countenance” of Discourse (204KB)

  Chapter 4 — A (Re)Feminized New Science Project: Cavendish’s Philosophical and Physical Opinions (194KB)

  Chapter 5 — “Imaginations of Impossibilities” (78KB)

  Chapter 6 — Concluding Remarks (31KB)

  Appendix A — The Seventeenth-Century Context: Women and Science (137KB)

  Appendix B — The Seventeenth-Century Context: The Discourse of the New Science as the Ultimate Masculine Register (90KB)

  Works Consulted (118KB)

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