Thursday, August 25, 2011

For Credit: Does Haywood Support the Status Quo...or not?

A few people suggested in class today that Haywood might have been advancing a feminist agenda in writing this novel, and there were a few different ideas about what the content of that agenda might be:
  • pointing out the unfairness of the sexual double-standard (that Beauplaisir can sleep around with impunity, while Fantomina has to go to great lengths in order to satify her desires);
  • stressing the limited opportunities for women to use their minds and suggesting that greater educational and vocational opportunities might give the Fantominas of the real world a better outlet than chasing men; or
  • showing that women have more intelligence and ingenuity than they are usually credited with
What do you think? This novel demonstrates some of the ways that women (even rich and well-born women) found their lives limited in ways that the lives of similar men were not. Is Haywood encouraging her contemporary readers to reflect critically on that fact--or are the inequities of her world simply the necessary backdrop for the entertaining and salacious story she wants to tell?

Please note that you don't have to answer this question exhaustively and conclusively with regard to all four personas! A simple "I do/don't think Haywood is crafting these four personas towards some significant literary end, and here's a reason why..." is enough. If you have more to say, that's great!--but a pithy three-sentence response that bears on just one of these identities will meet the expectations for this blog question. By all means, though, cite some specific text to support your claims (however limited or broad in scope they may be).

Deadline: Tuesday (8/30), start of class. Please note that responses posted before midnight on Saturday (8/27) count towards your Week 1 blogging; responses posted after midnight on Saturday will count towards Week 2.


  1. I think Haywood begins the novel with a sort of "pro-feminism" attitude by showing that this girl is so intelligent and cunning, even being able to fool men, specifically the same one. This gives us the impression that she wants to show her audience what women can do, how smart they really are, etc.

    But, near the end of the story, Haywood sort of pulls the rug out from under the pro-feminism attitude with Fantomina's pregnancy, sort of a"see what happens when you do this" attitude. It seems like Haywood inserts this ending to not rock the boat too much. Women may be intelligent, cunning and beautiful, but they need to be careful.

  2. "Traytor! (cry'd she) as soon as she had read them, 'tis thus our silly, fond believing Sex are serv'd when they put Faith in Man: So I had been deceived and cheated, had I like the rest believ'd, and sat down mourning in Absence, and vainly waiting recover'd Tendernesses." ("Fantomina" Paragraph 20)
    This portion seems to show Haywood as having a pro-feminism attitude when writing the story, yet the paragraph makes me believe that she is simply "sympathizing" with women and their tendencies to be "vainly waiting" and "trusting." And her character Fantomina becoming pregnant in the end seems to encourage women to practice discretion and make wiser choices. So for me, there seems to be a little bit of a conflict between "profeminism" and pure submission. Also encouraging readers to think about the consequences of their actions.

  3. Haywood demonstrates the inequities between women and men, which mirrors a "pro-feminism" tone throughout her writing. When Beauplasir is first introduced to Fantomia's second character, Celia he asks her questions expecting a "womanly answer in return". "All which she answer'd with such seeming innocence, as more enflam'd the amorous hear of him who talk'd to her" (Paragraph 10). The need to portray the innocent and naive woman is pointing out the unfairness of gender roles. While woman needed to act proper and prude, oppositely men could immediately act upon their feelings. "He soon lost the power of contating himself. His wild desires burst out in all his words and actions" (Paragraph 10). In this paragraph alone, Haywood demonstrates the limited opportunity for women and their duty was to impress the men.

  4. I think that as far as a feminist approach to this novel, I still believe in what I said in class. In order for Fantomina to gain any control and freedom in her "relationship" with Beauplaisir, she needs to go to great measures. She tries to control the relationship by tricking him into pursuing her, but in the end, it is to no avail because her own body is her undoing. She can no longer keep up the charade because she is pregnant. Unfortunately, I feel like this story speaks about how truly powerless women are, even when they are smart and crafty.

  5. I certainly do not think that Haywood adopts a "pro-feminist" attitude, as any sort of feminism that may have been taking place at that time was not the same sort of feminism that we recognize today. I do, however, see that Haywood was placing a large amount of power in Fantomina's hands. The fact that the end of the story is rather ambiguous (she is not quite punished as one would expect, but she does not receive a happy ending) leads me to compare Haywood to other feminists from (roughly) that time like Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft directly promotes the education and physical exercise and stamina of women, Haywood leaves the end of her story more open and ...ambigous. As I mentioned, Fantomina does not receive a happy ending, but she is not outrightly punished or humiliated in a public manner. When her mother sends her to a convent, it seems to be done quietly and it is mentioned only in passing in the last few lines of the story. The last line of the story says, "And thus ended an Intreague..." (Paragraph 29). The comes swiftly and without melodrama.

  6. I really think that it is both or I am in between both the options. Because the facts of Fantomina's status as well as Beauplaisir's and their life style can be overshadowed sometime by the actual acts that are taking place. On the other hand, I do believe that in writing this piece she did want to emphasize and incorporate some of the ways people thought of and restricted women, particularly males, during the time of this piece. I can't help but see that this is a piece to inform the public or the readers that "women can never catch a break" when it comes to men and being equal.

  7. I don't necessarily think that Haywood was trying to advance any sort of feminist agenda in her novel. Haywood does point out the sort of sexual double standard during that time in the fact that Fantomina is unable to speak her desires freely to Beauplasir because she is a woman of distinguished birth and it would have been extremely scandalous: "She had often seen him in the Drawing-Room, had talk'd with him; but then her Quality and reputed Virtue kept him from using her with that Freedom she now expected he wou'd do, and had discover'd something in him, which had made her often think she shou'd not be displeas'd, if he wou'd abate some Part of his Reserve." However, if Haywood had really been trying to promote a more feminist way of life for her female readers I feel that the novel would have ended differently. By ending the novel with Fantomina being sent to a convent by her mother I feel that the novel is more of a warning about acting to quickly on one's sexual desires and lusts.

  8. - The narrator voice in “Fantomina” contains a very nonchalant and matter-of-fact tone. Oftentimes, the narrator states that the actions of the characters are simply what are expected as a result of their interactions. Beauplaisir “varied not so much from his Sex as to be able to prolong Desire, to any great Length after Possession” (Haywood, 9). According to the narrator, Beauplaisir naturally became disinterested with Fantomina upon having conquered her sexually and unsurprisingly, desired a new conquest. Likewise, Fantomina naturally desires to be a constant and faithful lover to Beauplaisir, to tame his philandering ways. Upon realizing that he no longer desired her, Fantomina acted in a way that showed her ingenuity. Most women would have used “complaints, tears, swoonings, and all extravagancies” (Haywood, 9) in order to keep their beloved, but Fantomina had another stratagem, although unorthodox. The narrator’s voice leads me to believe that this piece requires readers to think critically of the culture in which they live. Beauplaisir and Fantomina were not given distinct names. They are representative of the stereotypical man and woman. In Fantomina’s case, it is important to note that she is from an affluent and distinctive family. A fallen young lady, albeit a poor one, would not have come as such a shock to Haywood’s society. A “Forsaken” woman from a high class, however, would have been the gossip of the day and greatly unsettling for the society. If a privileged talented and beautiful woman could thus fall, so can many others. Had Fantomina not been raised to depend upon the dominant male figure in her life, had she not had to depend upon her chastity to determine her value, she may have been able to use her wit in other useful faculties. Although not directly expressed, I do believe that Haywood makes individuals question why is it that Beauplaisir leaves the situation “more confus’d than ever” (Haywood, Last Paragraph) free to carry on with his Cansanova-like exploits while Fantomina is sent to a convent.