The essay form as critique: Reading Cavendish's the world's olio through Montaigne and Bacon (and Adorno)

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Using Theodor Adorno's theory of the essay form as critique of ideology, this article reads Margaret Cavendish's The World's Olio with specific reference to her predecessors in the form, Montaigne and Bacon. Cavendish's articulation of contradictory perspectives in the same work has been explained as rhetorical play, a habit of arguing both sides of the question or a refusal of synthesis and conclusion. By contrast, this article suggests that the essay form's characteristic hybridity - at once authoritative and exploratory - enabled Cavendish to negotiate oppositional views that were inconsistent with her subject position as the devoted wife of an exiled royalist general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalProse Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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