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Fantomina: Discourse Analysis From an Aesthetic Perspective

The turn of the eighteenth century is at the cusp of radical shifts in ideology, booming market and scientific advancement for the Western Planet. The fast changes, and developing middle class widens the audience for conduct books. As a lot more people have been economically safe and had access to education, much more girls were required to appear to nobles as an instance to comply with. The emphasis of etiquette in polite English society serves as indicator for how gender roles have been socially constructed. An growing quantity of educated women meant fledgling feminist concepts. Eliza Haywood, one of the first writers of Amatory Fiction, narratives of romance and sexual love, writes Fantomina or Really like in a Maze in 1725, in which the protagonist goes to wonderful lengths to seduce the same man repeatedly. The young lady is a Haywood’s way of reclaiming the disgraced or persecuted maiden trope, so frequently utilized in Restoration fiction. The cunning options of disguises selected by a morally condemnable heroine, enables the conservative audience to suspend disbelief and be delighted by her antics. The role of these distinctive characters adopted, reflect how budding feminist tips in Eighteenth Century England have been to present themselves in order not to alienate a conservative audience.

Fantomina is in essence, a tale of sentient expertise. The heroine, who’s identity is never ever revealed but is introduced as “A young lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit and Spirit,” is constructed up as an ingenious mind but defined by her body. Unlike men, who’s virtue was represented by their part in the public sphere, women’s part was to bear youngsters, for that reason limiting their “value” to the private sphere. The feminine sex’s virtue was exclusively determined by her physique, and as a result women were expected to keep it chaste. Conduct books would typically recommend ladies to stay demure in order to not seem masculine. In each and every one particular of her disguises, the heroine maintains a certain air of passivity, and even submissiveness although actively pursuing Beauplaisir. She reverse the roles of active seduction by constantly sustaining an inferior position, causing the man to think he is the a single wooing her. In addition, ladies have been also deemed to be the much more emotionally volatile of the sexes, requiring them to be much more strictly guarded against their own passions. Spontaneous or improper conduct would undoubtedly lead to a lady’s reputation to be tarnished, and Haywood does not let her impassioned protagonist act with no consequence forever. She builds the narrative in a way, that would permit her nameless lady to embody the varying profiles of single ladies, that would have varying degrees of freedom inside eighteenth century England.

The protagonist, 1st crosses the lines of propriety by posing as a prostitute she aptly names Fantomina. She chooses to pose as a prostitute in the pit of the Playhouse in order to have the freedom to interact with guys. Beauplaisir catches her attention, and they end up alone. This act would definitely trigger a uproar in upper-middle class and the aristocracy of the time, even so she manages to somewhat retain of her innocence in the beginning, as she resist Beauplaisir’s advances. Her reaction is an emotionally instinctive one, as Fantomina, realizing she has lost her honour, breaks down and cries. Her innocence may have been taken away from her, but the fact that she fights him off suggests she is not completely morally bankrupt. This keeps the audience entertained but not disconnected with the character. Her second disguise is of a barmaid named Celia. This time, she alterations her appearance and adopts another profession of lower class, once again granting her the freedom a lady of stature stature could not afford. Celia, in contrast to Fantomina is significantly a lot more accepting of her desires. (“ She got more than the Difficulty at last, however, by proceeding in a Manner, if achievable, far more extraordinary than all her former Behaviour”). The fact that she has lost her virginity to him, she feels as though he belongs to Beauplaisir, even when she feels betrayed by him becoming unfaithful to her fictional personas. Her third disguise is one of closer social standing, the widow Bloomer, a woman having been married, as a result remaining virtuous yet obtaining the freedom that most females of the time would not have.

Right after impersonating three various single girls of the time, the protagonist tends to make the boldest selection of inviting Beauplaisir to a rendez-vous as “Incognita”, her final disguise. She meets him in a dim space, wearing nothing at all but a mask he is not allowed to remove. Haywood writes this masked character for the duration of the height of popularity of masquerade balls, in which the aristocracy could adopt new identities for a night. The mask itself is a symbol for prostitution. When the protagonist becomes Incognita, all she can be defined by is her body. She has no story to give her any character. She is a blank slate, representing universal female desire, transcending class, profession and character. Incognita is regaining her sexual agency as she is experiencing sexual pleasure and it getting self-ratifying. The most exciting thing Haywood manages with Incognita, is to stimulate desire for the protagonist, Beauplaisir and even the audience, however she tends to make a point of punishing her, when she finds out she is with youngster. The reader can appreciate the scandalous story while feeling comfy with the truth that sinful behaviour cannot be rewarded.

The females in Haywood’s Fantomina are both guilty of misconduct and self-punishing. The protagonist does not location any blame onto Beauplaisir, even even though he sexually assaulted her. She confesses her sins to her mother, who also agrees the blame is on her daughter, and decides to send her away to a convent in France, an institution run by ladies. The audience is also intended to locate some which means in the consequences of Fantomina’s antics. Her net of deceit, providing into her primal urges and abandoning propriety leads to her downfall. It could look as though the ending is lackluster, contemplating the empowering female narrative, nonetheless Haywood may possibly have been all too aware of her personal position as a single woman of the time. Writing a novella about a woman indulging her desires was ahead of her time, and Haywood would be concerned with the reception, as it would influence her personal top quality of life. This does not mean she did not think the protagonist should not be punished for her actions, but the heroine shows no remorse for her actions, she basically acknowledges she was the a single to blame. Haywood is hence planting the seeds of female empowerment, while defending her own reputation by way of the veil of patriarchal karmic retribution.



Functions Cited:

Anderson, Emily Hodgson. “Performing the Passions in Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina” and “Miss Betsy Thoughtless”” The Eighteenth Century 46.1 (2005): 1-15. Web.

Kathleen. “Eliza Haywood’s Amatory Aesthetic.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 39.three (2006): 309-22. Web.

Mowry, Melissa. “Eliza Haywood’s Defense of London’s Physique Politic.” Research in English Literature, 1500-1900 43.three (2003): 645-65. Web.

Schulz, Dieter. “”Novel,” “Romance,” and Well-liked Fiction in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century.” Research in Philology 70.1 (1973): 77-91. Web.


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