Abstract: Utopias emerged in the early modern as feminized spaces allowing for fluid constructions of gender, desire and sexuality, which I propose led to utopia's difficulty and possibility. To realize utopia, society must become other on every front, including dismantling the gender binary. In Part I, I focus on representative examples of cosmogonic myths that demonstrate the persistent idealiza... read moretion of utopic unity and wholeness and narrate the moment of gender division. I then turn to utopia's literary origins beginning with Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), and an anonymous fourteenth-century poem, "Land of Cokaygne," considered the first utopia written in English. I conclude Part I by considering the influence of the discovery of the Americas, which promised to bridge the interminable gap between the ideal and the real by offering the concept of utopia a space and place. I focus on the accounts of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Sir Walter Ralegh to demonstrate how their narratives fixed the New World's potential through the same deliberate gendering across the span of the early colonial endeavors. In Parts II and III, I consider several texts by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673). In Shakespeare's plays, I consider the influence of performativity, enclosure, and mythology on the construction of gender and desire in Love's Labour's Lost (1594/5) and then his most utopic plays: Twelfth Night (1601/2) and The Tempest (1611). Finally, I demonstrate how Margaret Cavendish's repeated creation of utopic spaces is evidence of utopia's particular fluidity for women. For Cavendish, this potential materialized in her singularly "chaotic" writing. I focus on several of her Prefaces, CCXI Sociable Letters (1664), and The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666), along with two of her plays, The Convent of Pleasure (1668) and The Female Academy (1662). I will demonstrate that utopia's development through the early modern as a feminized space facilitated Cavendish's persistent utopicity because utopia offered women, in particular, a genre that could become a genre féminine in the tradition of Cixous' écriture féminine.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Judith Haber.
Committee: Carol Flynn, Kevin Dunn, and Mary Baine Campbell.
Keywords: Literature, British and Irish literature, and Gender studies.read less