Cavendish and Mediated Form
Interacting with the digital project:
The digital interface is structured as a textual tryptych with three main sections. The section to the far left contains passages from Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy; the middle section is comprised of text from Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World. At the far right is a panel that provides critical vignettes that offer visual or textual commentary on the passages. This critical section will ultimately function as a transversal and transhistorical interruption to reading Cavendish’s texts side by side. This third section assumes a purpose akin to what Jerome McGann has called a “return to philology” in the digital age — critically re-appropriating a text’s diverse and historically contingent cultural memories. Each of the sections are linked together by “atomized” keywords (hermaphroditical; worlds; corporeal) in deference to the presence of epicurean structures and philosophy throughout Cavendish’s oeuvre.
Functionally, readers are asked to move left to right, or right to left, sweeping between the three sections. When the two sections of Cavendish’s text are present side by side, the cursor can be dragged over each textual element to highlight a given passage. All sections are meant to “ghost” the others, providing an affect that evokes an almost imperceptible tension around the rendering of a hybrid text in tension with itself. Cavendish named her textual production “hermaphroditical,” and the project, as it develops, will continue to experiment with the pleasures and disruptions of the hermaphroditical text. Cavendish returned again and again to the idea that embodied and epigenetic forms in both art and nature occur as “corrupt and imperfect creatures,” and that the fissures and breaks that constitute such imperfection are places of creative empowerment and disruption (the further implications of this as a politico-aesthetics are pursued in the in-progress, born digital “book,” The Virtual Sovereign: Networked and Mediated Life. Observations Upon a Blazing World will ultimately be included as a “chapter” of that larger project).