The convent of measure: prosodic passing and stable subjectivity in Margaret Cavendish's The convent of pleasure

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Although contemporary criticism of Margaret Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure often focuses on Happy's convent as a site of queer resistance, my prosodic analysis of the verse structure of the 4.1 pastoral scene suggests that Lady Happy's convent is not defined negatively in relation to the patriarchy (as in resistance); rather, her convent is established to reflect her positively defined homoerotic desires. The Prince's successful infiltration of Happy's convent depends, then, upon not only his temporary rejection of patriarchal imperatives but also upon his assumption of the "feminine" discourse that Happy establishes as the discursive currency of her convent. The ways in which Happy delivers prose in scenes prior to 4.1 suggest that she prefers both content that glorifies nature and structure that demonstrates speed and poetic continuity. Likewise in the 4.1 scene, the disguised Prince delivers to Happy an erotic suit that succeeds because of its smooth, swift iambic trimeter form. The Prince's gender mimicry, then, extends beyond the standard adoption of cross-gendered clothing to an appropriation of positively defined, "feminine" ways of speaking. With this poetic gender mimicry, the Prince is able to infiltrate Happy's feminine utopia and collapse it from the inside by insinuating the patriarchal imperative of marriage into his otherwise feminine discourse. The poetic mode that Happy espouses represents a mode of feminine resistance that is borne out in Butlerian theories of gendered resistance. Happy's convent, then, characterizes a need to move beyond received (and largely inaccurate) notions of Butlerian performativity and to shift focus toward the more manageable terms of iteration and citation.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
British & Irish literature, Gender studies