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Title page for ETD etd-11182016-234315

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Mullins, Katherine V.
URN etd-11182016-234315
Title Sensory Signs: Perception and Passion in Eliza Haywood's Fantomina
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jonathan Lamb Committee Chair
Vera Kutzinski Committee Member
  • whore dialogues
  • Molyneux problem
  • double principle
  • blindness
Date of Defense 2016-06-30
Availability unrestricted
This paper argues that Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina inverts the sensory thought experiment known as the Molyneux problem. Haywood establishes a clear distinction between different types of sensory perception in Fantomina and insists upon the inefficacy of the individual senses to reliably transmit knowledge about the protagonist’s identity. Additionally, Haywood’s text maintains a level of skepticism regarding the reliability of the combination of the senses to afford Beauplaisir understanding of the lady’s identity. Haywood presents Beauplaisir as an unreliable spectator whose investment in sensory excitement renders him unable to discern the suspicious similarities among his lover’s many disguises. Beauplaisir accepts his superficial perceptions uncritically, and in doing so, he emphasizes the correlation between passion and immediate perception. The unnamed protagonist, however, preserves a distance from her own passion by seizing control of her romantic entanglements with Beauplaisir, in which she dictates the terms of their rendezvous in a usurpation of gender roles. By manipulating Beauplaisir’s sensory perception of her identity, the protagonist of Fantomina reframes the philosophical and aesthetic trends mentioned above in order to imagine a greater degree of agency for eighteenth-century women.
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