This article locates Fantomina in a literary tradition that proposes all-female communities, such as convents and monasteries, as liberating and empowering spaces. I argue that the novella implies a virtual community rather than an actual one, as the heroine collectively embodies many different women, all of distinct social ranks: the heroine is both one woman and a variety of women brought together under the auspices of a single body, much the way discrete individuals together compose a community. Then, too, Beauplaisir, the object of the heroine’s desire, treats all the personae the same, no matter their social station. This emphasis on what women share is itself a gesture toward a symbolic community as it suggests that all women are part of a common class. Secondly, I argue that through the protagonist’s disguises the novella also offers the freedoms and challenge to women’s roles seen in the literary tradition of women’s community: the clothes serve as a protective space from which a woman may step “outside traditional female roles” (D’Monte and Pohl, xiv); and, from within the costumes the heroine can experiment with behavior traditionally denied women.
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