Everyone had such great things to say in class today about Fantomina's four identities, that I never got to a couple of data points that I wanted to spell out. So here they are, for your edification:
1. The role and recognition of women writers (like Haywood) in the Enlightenment era. A couple of people after class have expressed surprise at encountering a woman writer writing so freely about women's experience and they wanted to know just how typical she was. Short answer: there weren't a lot of women writers, but there were more than you might think and they had a wider and more mainstream audience than you might think. It can be helpful to think of women writing for publication in the Enlightenment era as being kind of like female firefighters or male elementary school teachers in 2011: they are certainly out there, and you're not particularly surprised to come across one--but you do notice, in a way that you don't notice, for example, the gender of a grocery store clerk or pediatrician.
2. Working class experience. It's worth pausing on Haywood's explanation of how Fantomina's Celia disguise works, as a snapshot of the assumptions surrounding female servants. When Fantomina dresses as a servant and applies for the job at the inn where Beauplaisir stays in Bath, the text notes that "Fortune in this exploit was extremely on her side; there were no others of the male-sex in the house but an old gentlemen, who had lost the use of him limbs...and her beloved Beauplaisir, so that she was in no apprehensions of any amorous violence, but where she wished to find it" (p. 575, emphasis mine.) Note the assumption here: if there WERE other male lodgers at the inn, she WOULD be subject to "amorous violence." Note too that her looks help to get her hired ("she was still very pretty; and the mistress of the house...was glad of the opportunity of taking her"). Readers of the time (largely middle and upper class, as we discussed) would have shared the assumption in play here: that pretty servants are there for the taking and that "amorous violence" is part of the job description. It's worth noting as well that the sex scene that follows is the most explicitly narrated encounter in the story.
What would you have liked to say in class today but didn't have a chance to? What elements of this story didn't get covered that you would have liked to explore further? What additional observations, questions, reflections do you have? Feel free to post any relevant thoughts or comments here before we move on to Pope's Eloisa to Abelard.
Deadline: Friday (1/28), start of class.