"Utopian Negotiation helps us pair these writers in ways that make each the better for the comparison, and it reframes our tributes to their accomplishments in ways that better reflect the disappointments of their own."—Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature
"Holmesland is a careful, thorough, and gifted reader of Cavendish and Behn; he gives enlightening readings of the broader corpus of writing by these two important women writers, and opens up new ground both in exploring lesser-known texts and in connecting them to wider currents in seventeenth-century literature and culture."—G. Gabrielle Starr, author of Lyric Generations: Poetry and the Novel in the Long Eighteenth Century
"This book reminds us that there is much to be learned from placing Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn in dialogue. Oddvar Holmesland confronts the contradictions and ambivalences that pervade the writings of these innovative women, considering how Cavendish and Behn mediate utopian possibilities within the transitional context of Interregnum and Restoration England."—Katherine R. Larson, author of Early Modern Women in Conversation
Aphra Behn (1640–1689) and Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673) were two of the boldest women authors of seventeenth century England. They made gestures toward a utopian future involving female emancipation and gender agreement, but depicted a world too complex for simple answers.
In the first book-length exploration of the two authors together, Holmesland reevaluates the nature of utopianism in the writings of both, considering a wide range of their literary output. Both writers try to avoid fixed positions, exploring areas in between, seeking mediating solutions through “utopian negotiation.” Requiring more equal gender relations, for instance, they challenge patriarchalism; however, while seeking to redefine the heroic code of honor, idealizing gentleness in men, they call for a femininity with heroic resources. Aspiring to such ideals of male-female mutuality, both authors extend this thinking to their view of the body politic.
Oddvar Holmesland is Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Translation Studies at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. He is the author of A Critical Introduction to Henry Green’s Novels, and Form as Compensation for Life: Fictive Patterns in Virginia Woolf’s Novels.
6 x 9, 360 pages