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Masuda Qureshi

Celestial Philosophy: Women, poetry, and natural philosophy 1600-1700.

This thesis asks: how did seventeenth-century women poets relate to the cosmos through ideas of natural philosophy and astronomy?

My research investigates the poetic works of Hester Pulter (1605-1678), Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681), Aphra Behn (1640-1689), Margaret Cavendish (1620–1681), and Mary Astell (1666-1731), Rachel Procter (1597-1630), and Diana Primrose amongst others.

It compares their works to seventeenth-century concepts of astronomy and natural philosophy to meet three aims. Firstly, to examine poetry as a form of natural philosophy that reflects, merges, challenges, and even changes theories concerning the cosmos and the natural world. Secondly, it investigates how we can appreciate the success of women’s poetry without equating it with its readership or reception.

It considers whether the success of a manuscript lies in how much it was read or received in the period.  Finally, it examines what it means for women, especially those who were not directly immersed in intellectual circles, to write about the universe through disciplines of natural philosophy, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, and atomism amongst others.

Supervisor: Professor Sue Wiseman.