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Announcing: The Online Olio Webinars Fall 2020

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

The Online Olio Webinars

Fall 2020 Series

Sponsored by the International Margaret Cavendish Society

With academic conferences being canceled all over the world because of COVID-19, it seems more important than ever to come together and celebrate one of English literature’s most fascinating thinkers. Please join us in a first ever series of webinars on the British natural philosopher, author, and pedagogue: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673).

In this series, speakers will join a group of 12-18 attendees to discuss a short selection of pre-circulated texts on topics we know will attract a core of the Cavendish community including science, fancy, and education. After brief (10-15 minute) presentations from each speaker, the webinar will open up to an hour and a half of moderated, but free-form, discussion among participants regarding the pre-circulated readings and presentation materials.

We would love to see you at multiple sessions to generate sustained cross-theme discussions, but you are also welcome to sign up for just one or two if that is what your schedule allows. Upon completing the registration form, you will receive an email within 24 hours letting you know whether you are confirmed or on the wait-list for each session you have requested. Because we will be capping the number of participants in each session, we do request that you commit to attending any sessions for which you are confirmed. If you need to cancel, please email as soon as possible, but no less than 48 hours in advance, so that we can admit someone off the wait-list to take your place.

Click here to register.

Webinar 1: Cavendish, Merian, and the Order of Insects

• Saturday Oct. 10, 3-5pm

• Speakers: Diana Epelbaum, Brian Ogilvie, and Arnaud Zimmern

• Panel Abstract: Female intellectuals contributed meaningfully to the seventeenth-century development of natural philosophy and the new science. This panel pairs excerpts from Margaret Cavendish’s Nature's Pictures and The Observations (e.g. "On Butterflies") with some of the most striking visual materials from Maria Sibylla Merian's amazing illustrated atlases…

Webinar 2: Fancy and the Imagination

• Friday Oct. 16, 3-5pm

• Speakers: David Cunning, Sophia Richardson, and Maura Smyth

• Panel Abstract: Transitioning from our focus on insects and the natural world, this panel turns to the power of fancy and the imagination. From Sylvia Bowerbank’s classic essay “The Spider’s Delight” to David Cunning’s more recent “Cavendish on the Metaphysics of Imagination and the Dramatic Force of the Imaginary World,” scholars have explored the intensity of Cavendish’s creative energy and suggested ways of harnessing that energy to better understand our world…

Webinar 3: Education + Accessibility, Margaret Cavendish in the Classroom

• Friday Oct. 23, 3-5pm

• Speakers: Liza Blake, Sarah Connell, and E Mariah Spencer

• Panel Abstract: Prior to the Cavendish renaissance, Margaret Cavendish—like virtually all early modern women—was excluded from the academic study and teaching of English literature, despite her groundbreaking role as an author and natural philosopher. This systematic erasure has its origins in pedagogical practices developed around the teaching of a canon of male authors and notions of authorship. By gaining a better understanding of this especially bold and productive female author, we also gain insight into problems with equity and representation within higher education. To this end, this panel brings you the paradigm shifting work of Sarah Connell, whose dedication to the Women Writers Online Project ( has significantly expanded access to early women writers; and the careful bibliographic and digitization efforts of Liza Blake, whose Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies, A digital critical edition ( offers the first fully collated and digitized edition of a Cavendish text.

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