Experimenting with Cavendish: The Heuretics of Social Literacy in the Writing of the Thrice Noble Princess, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
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This dissertation takes a heuretic approach to the study of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), focusing on her dramatic anthology Plays, Never before Printed (1668). This dissertation argues that the textual practices of Margaret Cavendish can act as performative displays of complex social thought. Cavendish constructs intellectual, textual, and cultural networks as a mode of engaging and participating in social critiques and conversations. Through this process, Cavendish creates a network of literacy practices in her use of dialogue and imagined debates. By using fancy, imagined conversations, literary constructs, and judicial fora as experimental spaces, Cavendish experiments with language and teaches her readers how to interpret her work and how to understand the world through her characters. Following a social sciences approach focused on gender theory, this dissertation demonstrates that Cavendish stages and executes literacy work that is social and gendered. Cavendish practices and imagines social relationships between friends and communities filtered through gendered relationships and representations while reaching beyond the actions of the players, where the text implicitly speaks to or positions her future readers to engage in the process of learning. Further, this dissertation produces alternative methodological practices influenced by digital and rhetorical frameworks, resulting in the creation of a digital project based on the study of Margaret Cavendish entitled The Digital Cavendish Project. This project argues for hybrid methodological and technical frameworks to challenge the limited infrastructures available to scholars and readers of Cavendish's works, including an XML transcription of The Convent of Pleasure as one method of providing access to Cavendish’s text for digital textual analysis.
Duchess of Newcastle
The Convent of Pleasure
Bell in Campo
The Sociable Companions
Moore, Shawn William (2017). Experimenting with Cavendish: The Heuretics of Social Literacy in the Writing of the Thrice Noble Princess, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from