Rethinking Medieval and Reinassance Literature
As a reader, we all have our own interests in what we like to read and why. Some of us like Poetry, others Non-Fiction. There also is Fiction, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Narrative, and so much more. All of these categories are considered genres of writing, and as a reader, can help us determine what we want to read. When you walk into any library or bookstore, the books are organized by the different types of genres, that way we can easily go to the section of books we want for easy access. What makes a genre a genre though and how do writings get classified into them? Many pieces have many different elements from different types of genres but still get classified under one, or can even have scholars questioning the work of an author’s piece and the relationship to the genre. For instance, in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, there is much to say on the topic of its relation to both genres in general and Science Fiction to be specific.
For starters, what makes a genre a genre, and what are the elements of Science Fiction? According to the MILNE library website, “Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of The English Language defines genre as ‘a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content”. Science Fiction is a category of a genre that can be defined as, “a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals” (Brittanica, Bruce Sterling).
When someone looks into The Blazing World and its relation to genre, many elements of Science Fiction pop up, whether it just be from a quick Google search or from reading the story itself and picking up on the different elements of it, but also other genres are talked about as well. In one of the Padlet activities we did, we discussed what we category of the genre we would put the story under. Many people said, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Utopian, and Mythological, and gave evidence to support their beliefs. When you go onto the Digital Cavendish website, in the study guide section, it classifies the reading as a work of Prose fiction. Prose fiction can be defined as a narrative written without a metrical patterm that tells and imaginary or invented story.
In a research article written by Jacob Tootalian titled, The Language of Genres, he looks into the different language patterns used in Cavendish’s writing to get an idea of the genres she uses. At the beginning of the reading, he states, “Genre is not only legible on the level of interpretive expectations. It can also be felt in the form of word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence linguistic gestures. To me, this means that it is not only how we interpret the thing as a whole (plot) and its relation to the genre but just viewing each individual word and each individual sentence, can also give a good grasp on how genre plays into the writings. One sentence could give the feeling of Science Fiction, the next could give the feel of more Utopian styled.
In Tootalian’s analysis, he uses a program called DocuScope, which allows him to process words into categories of language action types. This gave him the ability to see the subgenres of Cavendish’s work (word-by-word) but also get a good overall understanding of her works. In his first analysis of work he was able to conclude that The Blazing World, has multiple elements of being prose fiction. The Blazing world points to the red triangle three times which represents Prose fiction.
In a paragraph below that after another analysis of another chart, he explains what the numbers one, three, and six represent next to The Blazing World, which are some other elements of genres she has in her story. The one represents the Romantical attributions to the story, the three represents Philosophical attributions, and the six represents Fantasy attributions to the story. At the end of his whole analysis of breaking words into categories to help get a better understanding of Cavendish and her genres in general, it states, “Cavendish’s manipulation of genre shows it to be a form of linguistic executution, as much as expectation” (Tootalian, “The Language of Genre” ). Throughout the whole analysis though, he does not mention anywhere about it being related to Science Fiction or having any elements towards it.
For me, from the moment we read The Blazing World, and did the Padlet activity, I immediately thought of Science-Fiction. There is plenty of evidence that supports the ideas of Science-Fiction in it, and even going back to it and rereading it through a “word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence” lense, it is still very evident. One of the main elements the story has that gives it a Science Fiction feel to it is the Utopian related elements to it. Early on in the story it states, “Which made them live in continued peace and happiness, not aquianted with foreign wars, or home-bread insurrections” (Cavendish, 10). Another element in the story that contributes to the Science Fiction side of things is the mention of the animal-mans and the science jobs they all correlate to. The story states, “The bear-men were to be her Experiental Philosophers, the bird-man her astronomers, the fox-men her politicians, the spider-and-lice en her mathematicians, …”(Cavendish, 16).
All in all, The Blazing World, is a story thats genre can be decided by the reader themselves. It has many elements of all different types of genres to pinpoint it to just one specific. Some might argue it as Prose fiction like Tatoolian, or others might argue as Science Fiction. However one views it, there’s evidence to support all claims to it. Two people could be having a discussion ont this topic and argue the same thing, but have different elements of the story that they believe make it this genre.
“The Blazing World (1668) – Scholarly Edition.” Digital Cavendish Project, 16 Apr. 2019, http://digitalcavendish.org/complete-works/the-blazing-world-1668/.
“Blazing World Study Guide.” Digital Cavendish Project, 4 Aug. 2019, http://digitalcavendish.org/complete-works/the-blazing-world-1668/blazing-world-study-guide/.
“Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/margaret-cavendish#:~:text=Margaret%20Cavendish%2C%20Duchess%20of%20Newcastle,works%20under%20her%20own%20name.
Reich, John. “2. What Is Genre and How Is It Determined?” Exploring Movie Construction and Production, Open SUNY Textbooks, 11 July 2017, https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/exploring-movie-construction-and-production/chapter/2-what-is-genre-and-how-is-it-determined/#:~:text=2.-,What%20Is%20Genre%20and%20How%20Is%20It%20Determined%3F,%2C%20form%2C%20or%20content.%E2%80%9D.
Sterling, Bruce. “Science Fiction.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/art/science-fiction.
Tootalian, Jacob. “The Language of Genres.” Digital Cavendish Project, 16 Apr. 2019, http://digitalcavendish.org/original-research/the-language-of-genres/.