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Genius and Vanity: The Conflict of the Individual and Society in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle

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Abstract. During the early Modern period, the authors pay more and more attention to the construction of their own image. An example is the work of Margaret Cavendish (1603–1673), who actively used autobiographical sketches in her writings, discussing the status of the author and the necessary originality of his writings. Contemporaries often perceived her desire for originality as a manifestation of vanity and hypocrisy. The article will consider examples of M. Cavendish’s violation of traditional literary forms, her attitude to the status of individuality and the construction of the idea of scientific knowledge as a tool for the formation of an independent personality. The era in which M. Cavendish lived imposed restrictions on both her creative and personal ambitions. In conditions when the ideas of absolutism were condemned, M. Cavendish creates her own imaginary world, in which one language, one faith and one ruler predominate. There are practically no studies devoted to M. Cavendish in Russian, just as there are no translations of her works. At the same time, her works reveal the worldview of the author, who is part of the intellectual circles of her time, and in works of whom there is a desire to preserve her individuality. In order to resolve the conflict of personal aspirations and social conventions, Margaret creates her own reality in “The Blazing World” and encourages everyone to actively use their own imagination to transform an unsightly world.

Keywords: Margaret Cavendish, “The Blazing World”, individual and society, intellectuals and power, Stuart Restoration, scientific knowledge of the 17th century, crisis of values, imaginary worlds.

For citation: Shpak G.V. Genius and Vanity: The Conflict of the Individual and Society in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, in Novoe Proshloe / The New Past. 2023. No. 2. Pp. 51–63. DOI 10.18522/2500-3224-2023-2-51-63.

The article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).

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