chapter  10
18 Pages

Margaret Cavendish’s Domestic Experiment

WithLara Dodds

The language of domesticity does not, however, provide a univocal model for women's experience. Cavendish's contribution to early modern life writing has not been unrecognized; rather, her life writing often over shadows her work in other genres, which has sometimes been dismissed as poorly disguised and repetitive representations of the egotistical self. Cavendish's contemporaries were quick to interpret her public persona through the generic conventions of romance. Replacing romance with work, Cavendish appropriates and contests the model of the female self constructed by the domestic genres of housewifery manuals and cookbooks, transforming the language of domesticity into the basis for a writing self. Margaret Cavendish's writing is central to any consideration of seventeenth-century ideas of self. In writing her mother's life, Cavendish recognizes the housewife as a form for the female self that is now lost. She concludes her description of her mother's life by lamenting the destruction of her world and way of life.