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 idea... read morelization 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
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