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The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1994

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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.
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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.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of various works touted as “the first science fiction novel” (especially in contexts where people are pointing out the strong influence of female authors in the early development of science fictional concepts). The full title is The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, first published in 1666, but with an expanded version (as discussed below) published in 1668.

In brief: a young woman is abducted by a would-be suitor but the ship carrying them is blown off course to the North Pole and enters a passage into an alternate world, in the course of which everyone on the ship except for the young woman perishes of the cold. From the description of the transition and the destination, the world seems to be not so much located in the interior of the Earth, but accessed as a sort of Klein bottle concept where both worlds are “exterior” to each other. The text seems to alternate between treating the home world of the young woman (who is never identified by name -- first she is simply “the lady”, later referenced by another title) as our own world, but later on there is reference to three worlds, with the third being the one the author herself dwells in, which is not directly accessible to the other two. The “Blazing World,” as this destination is called, is clearly utopian, being united under a single emperor and a single religion where everyone lives in peace and harmony. The inhabitants are of a number of different races, partaking of the nature of various animals (bird-men, fish-men, bear-men, worm-men, in addition to unmarked humans) to each of which is attributed some inherent set of intellectual skills. Unsurprisingly given the era when it was written, there’s a lot of unexamined essentialism, colonialism, and “white savior” issues.
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