Sovereign virtue, singular fame : Margaret Cavendish's self-construction as woman and author, and the roles she sees for women as thinkers and beautiful tyrants in Natures pictures drawn by fancies pencil to the life.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Wanting to be more than a body subject to time, and fearing erasure, Margaret Cavendish wrote in ord,er to leave artifacts which characterised her and would ensure the continuation of her identity in immortal fame. Since publication was a transgressive act for a woman, she made her writings into defenses of virtue and utilised a range of other feminising strategies to ensure that she would be remembered as a good and distinctive woman. Among these strategies were her use of femininity as performance art; her claims to extreme originality, taking her ideas from her own fancies and conceptions rather than any external stimulus; her use of the metaphors of absolutism as a basis for constructing herself as a writing subject; and her advocacy of beauty's tyranny over men. Given the paradoxes of the project it is little surprise that many of her female protagonists assert the strength of their wills to deny themselves sustenance and life.