Author Biography

Kathryn Strong Hansen is a senior lecturer in language and literature at Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers tekniska högskola) in Göteborg, Sweden. Her research ranges from pedagogical writing on the ways that fiction is beneficial in the teaching of science and technology to literary analysis concerning material culture.


Writers of fiction capitalize upon dress’s potential as an agent of deception, using clothing as a means through which characters control their identity to perpetuate lies. Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (1725) contains this type of heroine, and the novella shows dress can provide women with power that they can find in few other arenas. This novella constructs lying and dress as potent related tools that allow the protagonist to achieve her desires by creating untruths that pass for realities. In so doing, Fantomina capitalizes upon two related phenomena: the cultural perception of women’s status as innately deceptive and the pervasive accusation that clothing hides the truth. This essay discusses how Fantomina celebrates deception by using clothing as visual rhetoric. To do so, it first sets out the popular association of dress with deception, paying particular attention to the hoop petticoat. A discussion of the ways in which Haywood’s heroine employs dress as visual rhetoric follows, establishing how Fantomina celebrates lying as a useful strategy for women.


Eliza Haywood, Fantomina, dress, deception, visual rhetoric