The Reason of Imagination. The Blazing Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Siri Hustvedt

  • Valeria Cammarata Università degli studi di Palermo
Keywords: Siri Hustvedt, Margaret Cavendish, experimental philosophy, neuroscience, masquerade.


One of the peculiarities of 17th and 18th centuries literature is the link between knowledge and imagination, a relationship in which narration sometimes accompanies science, sometimes goes beyond it. The idea of imagination as a true means of knowledge is the subject of Margaret Cavendish’s best known work, The Blazing World (1666), where her alter ego is free to built a whole social and philosophical system based on corporality and subjectivity.

From the same conception of imagination starts Siri Hustvedt when in 2014 rewrites The Blazing World: the story of an artist who still in the twentieth century tries to face the overwhelming misogyny with the performance of the body and the theory of embodiment. The protagonist is really close to the Duchess of Newcastle, especially for the desire to overturn the artificial categories of the gender through a real masquerade. The voices of Cavendish, Hustvedt and of all their alter ego follow each other through documents, diary pages and pure narration, in which it is difficult to say what is fiction and what is truth


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Valeria Cammarata, Università degli studi di Palermo

Associate Professor,

Department of Psychology, Educational Science and Human MovementSchool of Humanities and Cultural Heritage


Bacon, Francis, Of Masques and Triumphs, in id. Essays and New Atlantis, New York, W.J. Black, 1942.

Baker, Henry, The Microscope Made Easy, London, R. Dodsley, M. Cooper & J. Cuff, 1744.

Bevington, David, Holbrook, Peter (ed.), The Politics of the Stuart Court Masque, Cambridge-New York, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Bhabha, Homi, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”, October, 28 (1984): 125-133; Bowerbank, Sylvia, Mendelson, Sara (ed.), Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, Peterborough, Broadview, 2000.

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York-London, Routledge, 1990.

Butler, Judith, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”, New York-London, Routledge, 1993.

Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender, New York-London, Routledge, 2004.

Cammarata, Valeria, Donne al microscopio. Un’archeologia dello sguardo femminile, Pisa, ETS, 2013.

Cammarata, Valeria, Breve storia femminile dello sguardo, Palermo, Istituto poligrafico europeo, 2014.

Campbell, Mary Baine, Wonder and Science. Imagining Worlds Early Modern Europe, Ithaca, London, Cornell University Press, 1999.

Cavarero, Adriana, Restaino, Franco, Le filosofie femministe, Milano, Bruno Mondadori, 2002.

Cavendish, Margaret, Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy, Ed. by Eileen O’Neil, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Cavendish, Margaret, The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. by Kate Liley, London, Penguin, 1994.

Cometa, Michele, “Letteratura e scienze del bios: il caso di Siri Hustvedt”, in Insegnare letteratura. teorie e pratiche di una disciplina. Quaderni della ricerca, 9, 2019, pp. 27-37.

Cometa, Michele, Perché le storie ci aiutano a vivere. La letteratura necessaria, Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2017.

Cometa, Michele, Letteratura e darwinismo. Introduzione alla biopoetica, Roma, Carocci, 2018.

Craft-Fairchild, Catherine, Masquerade and Gender. Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-century Fictions by Women, University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Daston, Lorraine, Galison, Peter, Objectivity, New York - Cambridge, MASS, MIT Press, 2007.

Doane, Mary Ann, “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator”, Screen, 3 (1982):  74-87.

Doane, Mary Ann, The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1984.

Gallagher, Catherine, “Embracing the Absolute: The Politics of the Female Subject in Seventeenth-Century England”, Genders, 1 (1998): 24-39.

Gallese, Vittorio, “Embodied Simulation: From Neurons To Phenomenal Experience”, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4 (2005): 23-48.

Gallese, Vittorio, “Embodied Simulation Theory: Imagination and Narrative”, Neuropsychoanalysis, 13 (2011): 196-200.

Gallese Vittorio, “Visions of the body. Embodied simulation and aesthetic experience”, Aisthesis, 1(2017): 41-50.

Gallese, Vittorio, Guerra Michele, Lo Schermo Empatico. Cinema e Neuroscienze, Milano, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2015.

Haraway, Donna, (ed.), Primate Visions. Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, New York-London, Routledge, 1989.

Haraway, Donna, Situated Knowledges. The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective, in Muriel Lederman, Ingrid Bartsch (by), The Gender and Science Reader, London-New York, Routledge, 2001.

Hooke, Robert, Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses. With Observations and Inquiries thereupon, London, 1665.

Husserl, Edmund, Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie, Zweites Buch: Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution, Husserliana IV, M. Bimel (ed.), Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 1952; tr. R. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, Second Book, Studies in the Phenomenological Constitution, Dordrecht - Boston - London, Kluwer Academic Publishers Academic Publishers, 1993.

Husserl, Edmund, Aufsätze und Vorträge (1922–1937), Husserliana XXVII, Th. Nenon and H. R. Sepp (eds.), The Hague, Kluwer Academic Publishers Academic Publishers, 1988.

Hustvedt, Siri, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Hustvedt, Siri, Living, Thinking, Looking, New York, Picador, 2012.

Hustvedt, Siri, Memories of the Future, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Hustvedt, Siri, The Blazing World, London, Sceptre, 2014.

Hustvedt, Siri, The Blindfold, Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Hustvedt, Siri, The Delusions of Certainty, Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Hustvedt, Siri, The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves, New York, Henry Holton, 2009.

Hustvedt, Siri, “Three Emotional Stories: Reflections on Memory, the Imagination, Narrative, and the Self”, Neuropsychoanalysis, 13 (2011): 187-196.

Irigaray, Luce, Speculum de l’autre femme, Paris, Editions de Mi- nuit, 1974.

Irigaray, Luce, Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1977.

Jonson, Ben, Neptune’s Triumph for the Return of Albion, London, 1624.

Levao, Ronald, “Francis Bacon and the Mobility of Science”, Representations, 40 (1992), pp. 1-32.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phénoménologie de la perception, Paris, Gallimard, 1945.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, L’Oeil et l’esprit, Paris, Gallimard, 1961.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Le visible et l’invisible, C. Lefort (ed.), Paris:, Gallimard, 1964.

Mosher, Joyce Devlin, “Female Spectacle as Liberation in Margaret Cavendish’s Plays”, Early Modern Literary Studies, 11 (2005), pp. 1-28.

Nicolson, M.H., “The Telescope and Imagination”, Modern Philology, 32 (1935), pp. 233-260.

Ogel, Stephen, The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in Renaissance, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1975.

Panofky, Erwin, “Galileo as a Critic of the Arts: Aesthetic Attitude and Scientific Thought”, Isis, 47 (1956), pp. 3-15.

Pepys, Samuel, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, A new and complete transcription, ed. by Robert Latham and William Matthews, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1970–83, vol. 8.

Riviere, Joan, “Womanliness as a Masquerade”, Psychoanalysis and Female Sexuality, ed. Hendrik M. Ruitenbeek, New Haven, College and University Press, 1966): 209-220.

Sarasohn, Lisa T., The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Schaffer, Simon ,”Self Evidence”, Critical Inquiry, 18 (1992): 327-362.

Whitaker, Katie, Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen, New York, Basic Books, 2002.

How to Cite
Cammarata, V. (2020). The Reason of Imagination. The Blazing Worlds of Margaret Cavendish and Siri Hustvedt. Between, 9(18).