Doctoral StudentDepartment of Literature, History of Ideas, and
About Sandra Kottum
I began the doctoral program in the History of Ideas in September 2014. My dissertation examines the role of animals as teachers and moral exemplars in three texts from 17th century England: James Howell's The Parly of Beasts (1660), Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World (1666), and Thomas Tryon's The Way to Health (1683).
These texts differ widely in terms of genre, themes and politics, and yet they all articulate social criticism by contrasting noble animals with degenerate humans. In the ideal societies envisioned by their authors, animals represent the virtues and wisdom that humans purportedly have lost. This romantic, misanthropic idea can be traced back to antiquity, but takes on a specifically early modern form in the texts of Howell, Cavendish, and Tryon. I call this form "natural utopia", and I argue that it is a product of both the English civil war and the so-called scientific revolution.