It is now established that Margaret Cavendish’s literary ambition was tremendous. While earlier critics of the 1980s saw in her a woman writer with a prodigious but often inexplicable literary output, recent scholars have shown the unusual degree of self- fashioning and conscious plotting of her career as a writer. What has emerged is how systematic her exploration of genre after genre was. In the last twenty years or so, historians of philosophy have at last started taking her philosophy seriously, as entering into dialogue with that of her contemporaries in vital ways. In this essay, I return to Cavendish’s appropriation of Epicurean philosophy in her imaginative, rather than her scientific, works because it allows us to address two issues central to her oeuvre. First, by incorporating philosophical and scientific issues into fictional genres, she leads us to question our understanding of literary genres in the seventeenth century. Second, she also self-consciously annexes a field specifically considered as “serious,” and therefore theoretically reserved for men, by importing it into “lighter” genres deemed more acceptable for women— poetry and romance— while providing us with experimental forms, demonstrating, in Anna Thell’s apt words, “the value and necessity of speculative, imaginative thought.” This chapter deals therefore with Cavendish's engagement with epicureanism by looking at lesser-known sources that she might have been influenced by.

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