“Worse in singularity”?: Kant, Derrida and aesthetics in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World

Marlow, Christopher (2017) “Worse in singularity”?: Kant, Derrida and aesthetics in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World. Restoration: Studies in Literary Culture 1660-1700, 41 (1). ISSN 0162-9905

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1353/rst.2017.0014

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In this essay I offer a framework by which to comprehend what Margaret Cavendish calls 'singularity', and show that only by properly understanding her so-called self-indulgence can a full appreciation of Cavendish’s achievement be attained. Derek Attridge has done much to reclaim the term by suggesting that singularity, which he finds in all art that goes “beyond the possibilities pre-programmed by a culture’s norms,” be seen as the preeminent quality of literature. As he acknowledges, the term was often used in a pejorative sense in the seventeenth century, and the disapproval associated with it seems never to have entirely left Cavendish’s reputation. Attridge’s singularity, like much work on aesthetics, is itself grounded in Immanuel Kant’s notions of genius and exemplary originality and, as I will demonstrate, the principles that underlie Cavendish’s novel in fact have a great deal in common with Kant’s third critique, the Critique of Judgement—one of the cornerstones of western aesthetic theory. Kant’s understanding of fine art, genius, and mimesis helps to refocus interpretations of The Blazing World so that its singularity can be properly understood not as a freakish, undesirable effect of Cavendish’s self-obsession, but as a quality proper to all works of literature.

Keywords:Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Derrida, Science Fiction, Restoration Literature, Scientific Romance, Singularity, Utopianism, Aesthetics
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q321 English Literature by period
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:26815
Deposited On:31 Mar 2017 09:05

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