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Masuda Qureshi

Celestial Science: women, poetry, and astronomy 1600-1700.

This thesis asks: what forms of writing can be categorized under Renaissance natural philosophy, and how did the early modern woman use poetic form to access, evaluate, and rework astronomical theories?

To explore this question my research compares 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) to that of seventeenth century works of astronomy and natural philosophy.

This thesis aims to: examine poetry as a form of scientific writing that reflected, merged, challenged, and even changed ancient and early modern astronomical concepts; reconsider how we define and critically evaluate the success of early modern women’s writing; and finally, clarify what we mean by the early modern poetic form. It considers poetry as a multi-disciplinary, self-reflective, contemplative, and innovative form. The coupling of poetry with astronomical, natural philosophical, cultural and scientific discourses of both the ancient, and Renaissance, destabilizes the notion of the early modern woman writer: she becomes a poet, a physicist, a scientist, and, a preserver of her cultural contexts through her work.

Supervisor: Professor Sue Wiseman.