Gender, knowledge, and the medical marketplace

The case of Margaret Cavendish

Authored by: Laura L. Knoppers

Routledge Companion to Women, Sex, and Gender in the Early British Colonial World

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472479945
eBook ISBN: 9781315613772
Adobe ISBN:


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The case study of Margaret Cavendish brings new light to the much-discussed gendered contest for knowledge in the early modern medical marketplace. A little-explored but fascinating Cavendish family archive shows how Dr. Theodore de Mayerne critiques Cavendish’s medical knowledge and practice, even while incorporating that knowledge into his own learned prescriptions. Mayerne, however, cannot control Margaret even within the household, as she follows her own Galenic regime of diet and purging. In turn, in her non-fictional prose, Cavendish reclaims women’s medical expertise through the sustained use of household similes to explicate Galenic therapeutics. Further, Cavendish spoofs figures of mercenary physicians in her short fiction, before replacing these figures with the idealized Empress and Duchess of Blazing World, whose “good and profitable counsels” heal not only melancholic bodies but the disordered body politic.

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