Women Writing Skin: October 2nd
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM EDT
Skin scholarship has experienced a major boom in early modern studies over the last decade. However, too often the primary material in question consists of male authors writing about female skin. This panel addresses this imbalance, exploring presentations of skin by female authors: Mary Wroth, Hester Pulter, and Amelia Lanyer. We wish to see how the female skin begins to be gradually rehabilitated and reclaimed as sensitive, live, and embodied by women writers whose poetry testifies to the other, too-often-unheard voices of early modern skin, as they authoritatively make the textual surface right the wrongs done to the corporeal one. 

Rogue Thoughts: October 9th
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM EDT
Cavendish scholars across the humanities have worked to undercut the myth of Cavendish as a mad writer. Indeed, we now see Cavendish as avant garde, perhaps, but not crazy, and we also recognize that her work engages deeply with contemporary debates in natural philosophy. But we have not spent enough time investigating how Cavendish herself views mental illness on a physiological and conceptual level. Her materialist theory of mind suggests that madness arises from irregular motions in the material parts of our minds, a kind of conscious contagion whereby certain parts decide to “pattern” or mimic irregular motions of other parts. Her thinking on this topic opens questions about irregularity–which is not unnatural, but rather atypical–and about the nature of free will, as well as her potentially normative understanding of orderly nature. How does imagination support or threaten that balance or regularity? And how might her concept of mental productivity anticipate or diverge from later thinkers who fetishized mental distress? 

Philosophy of Gender: October 16th & 17th
3:00 – 5:00 PM EDT
The work of Margaret Cavendish is often (and rightly!) analyzed for its contributions to the history of gender formation in various contexts and fields. But getting clear on what kinds of things have genders at all — and how those things are constituted — seems like an important first step for thinking productively about gender in Cavendish’s literary-philosophical output. This panel will examine questions surrounding individuals and personhood in the writings of Cavendish and her (near) contemporaries, including such figures as Anne Conway, Thomas Hobbes, and Mary Sidney.