© 2017

Women Writing Fancy

Authorship and Autonomy from 1611 to 1812


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Defining Modernity and Fixing Fancy

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 39-39
  3. Talking Back: Fanciful ‘Creatoresses’ of the Novel

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 113-113
    2. Maura Smyth
      Pages 115-150
  4. Fancy’s Afterlife

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 237-237
    2. Maura Smyth
      Pages 267-272
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 273-295

About this book


This book brings to the foreground the largely forgotten “Fancy” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and follows its traces as they extend into the nineteenth and twentieth. Trivialized for its flightiness and femininity, Fancy nonetheless provided seventeenth- and eighteenth-century women writers such as Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Delarivier Manley, Eliza Haywood, and Anna Barbauld a mode of vision that could detect flaws in the Enlightenment’s patriarchal systems and glimpse new, female-authored worlds and genres. In carving out unreal, fanciful spaces within the larger frame of patriarchal culture, these women writers planted Fancy—and, with it, female authorial invention—at the cornerstone of Enlightenment empirical endeavor. By finally taking Fancy seriously, this book offers an alternate genealogy of female authorship and a new framework for understanding modernity’s triumph.


Fancy Women's Writing Eighteenth Century Literature Aphra Behn Imagination Leviathan Hobbes

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.BostonUSA

About the authors

Maura Smyth is Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Previously, she was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows

Bibliographic information


“It offers not only an entirely new way of thinking about how creativity was conceptualized in the early modern period, but also a model of fine-grained, imaginative textual criticism that gives proper consideration to the fleeting, overlooked, and imperfect spaces in which such creativity was practiced by women.” (Natasha Simonova, Early Modern Women Journal, Vol. 14 (1), 2019)