Jing-fen Su



The prose fiction The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World was published by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, as a supplement to her scientific treatise Observations upon Experimental Philosophy in 1666. The generic structures of the work have been hotly debated among Cavendish scholars. This essay argues that The Blazing World is a prose fiction composed of “hybrid” rather than simply “mixed” genres, in which the various generic modes are organically intertwined within the body of the work much like a “textual cyborg.” Exploiting the cannibalistic potential of the newly emerging form of the novel to consume preceding genres into its textual body, Cavendish adopts various generic modes in The Blazing World, incorporating elements of romance, utopia, Menippean satire, science fiction, and political allegory. Each generic mode is carefully chosen by Cavendish as a suitable vehicle to advance her ideas on issues in politics, natural philosophy, social customs, religious practices, and artistic productions. As a prose fiction crossing generic boundaries, The Blazing World is thus an important precursor of prose fiction with hybrid genres, which anticipates the further development of the genre of the novel in the eighteenth century and beyond.


KEYWORDS: genre study, romance, utopia, science fiction, satire, allegory, the novel