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A Conversation about Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure

Recorded March 7, 2022

Presented in collaboration with


Leadership support provided by



Four experts on early modern British literature, theater and culture, Misty G. Anderson, Liza Blake, Julie Crawford, and Kristina Straub discuss Margaret Cavendish, a 17th-century polymath and aristocrat who wrote, among many other things, the closet drama, The Convent of Pleasure.

This is a companion program to our online reading of Cavendish's play that will be held on Monday, March 14, 2022. Join this discussion in webinar and you will be able to ask questions of the panelists.

Who was Cavendish and why did she not intend her brilliantly theatrical play for the stage? What is the relationship between the often woman-authored and performed household and court entertainments with which Cavendish was familiar, and the highly successful plays women (including Aphra Behn and Susanna Centlivre) wrote for the commercial stage in the years immediately following a period of political revolution? How might theater makers use our understanding of Cavendish’s work to imagine new staged futures for her drama, as well as for those plays by women that appeared on stage during her lifetime?


Misty G. Anderson is the James R. Cox Professor and Head of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she also holds courtesy appointments in the departments of Theatre and Religious Studies.  Anderson is the author of Imagining Methodism in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Enthusiasm, Belief, and the Borders of the Self (Johns Hopkins UP, 2012) and Female Playwrights and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: Negotiating Marriage on the London Stage (Palgrave, 2002), along with numerous articles on performance and gender in the long eighteenth century.  She is also a co-editor of the Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama and Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Performance (2017 and 2019) with Kristina Straub and Daniel O’Quinn. She has worked as a dramaturg for the Clarence Brown Theatre and produced a documentary about their 2017 production of Centlivre’s The Busy Body.  She is currently completing a third book project, God on the Stage.


Liza Blake is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto, with research interests in early modern literature and science, book history, and textual editing. She has numerous chapters and articles on Margaret Cavendish published and forthcoming, with a particular focus on Cavendish's natural philosophy and her post-print interventions into her own books. She has edited Margaret Cavendish's Poems and Fancies: A Digital Critical Edition  published in 2019. She is one of three General Editors of The Complete Works of Margaret Cavendish, under contract with Punctum books, and is also Co-Director of Digital Cavendish


Julie Crawford is Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She has published widely on authors ranging from William Shakespeare and John Fletcher to Margaret Cavendish and Mary Wroth, and on topics ranging from the history of reading to the history of sexuality. She is the author of a book about cheap print and the English reformation entitled Marvelous Protestantism (Johns Hopkins UP, 2005), and Mediatrix: Women, Politics and Literary Production in Early Modern England (Oxford UP, 2014). She is currently completing a book called “Margaret Cavendish’s Political Career.”


Kristina Straub is Professor Emeritus of English at Carnegie Mellon University.  She authored Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy (UP of Kentucky, 1987), Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth-Century Players and Sexual Ideology (Princeton UP, 1992),  Domestic Affairs: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence Between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth Century Britain (Johns Hopkins UP, 2009), and co-edited two anthologies of 18th-century drama with Misty Anderson and Daniel O’Quinn for Routledge Press.  She co-curated, with Janine Barchas, the exhibition “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 2016 and is currently co-editing with Nora Nachumi the collection Making Stars: Biography and Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century Britain, forthcoming from Delaware University Press.

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