Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814) & Final Projects

We’re going to read MP this Thursday and continue our discussions of the final project.

As you read MP, think about the differences in the depictions of the West Indies and the slave trade between the Woman of Colour (1808) and MP. What representational choices did Austen make that Anon. did differently? What implications would you draw from those choices?

We’ll also discuss the differences between this heroine and her story and the earlier fiction. Whatever other issues you find of interest please bring to class for us to discuss.

As for the final project, I’d like you each to put into the comments some kind of status report about the emerging topic. It could take a number of different forms:

  • a formal proposal, including authors and works, topic, and a few potential scholarly secondary sources;
  • a free-write about your topic, with the literary works you’re using and any potential scholarly sources;
  • a passage from one or more of your sources that you feel could be researched and elaborated into a more extended essay.

Please post those by Wednesday evening so we can discuss them in class on Thursday.

See you soon,



Author: Dave Mazella

I am an Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston, Department of English, specializing in 18th-century British literature.

15 thoughts on “Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814) & Final Projects”

  1. One of my major academic interests is literature in adaptation. Austen, as we are well aware, has been adapted across a variety of media. In particular, I have been focused on the idea of adaptations that allow the reader to “inhabit” Austen in new ways.

    As I touched on during class last week, one of the “texts” I have chosen to write about is Ever, Jane, “an on-line role-playing game set in the virtual world of Regency England and the works of Jane Austen.” Set in the fictional village of Tyrehampton, with smaller locations referencing many of Austen’s settings, the game sets itself apart from other online role-playing games in being “not about kill or be killed but invite or be invited.” Instead of the weapons and warfare found in games like Warcraft, players will utilize gossip to make their ways through grand balls and dinner parties. Several Austen characters appear as non-player-characters (NPC’s) with whom the player can interact. Player-to-player interaction is also essential to the game; players are encouraged to attempt to use the language and customs associated with Regency England, with blatant failure to do so—as watching some gameplay videos on YouTube showed—risking their removal from the game server.

    Ever, Jane, in addition to taking place in a setting derivative of Austen, presents its storylines in a storybook-like format. This adds emphasis to the thought that players are meant to envision themselves as inhabiting the world of Austen’s novels. The in-class discussion of the potential topic further illuminated the idea that Ever, Jane is one example among many of some compulsion to do so. People are still drawn to Austen’s world. What makes that world such a beloved escape?

    As a point in Austen’s canon with which to ground my examination of Ever, Jane and the tendencies the game illuminates, I believe I will use Pride and Prejudice. This novel, for one, is mentioned as a point of comparison in almost all of the review blogs and articles I’ve read about the game; it’s also the Austen novel, beyond course materials, with which I am most familiar. Other options include Sense & Sensibility and Emma; characters from both appear in Ever, Jane. Is referencing multiple texts (thinking more generally about ‘the world of Austen’) an option, or should I be focusing on one in particular?

    What I am most interested in doing, for purposes of this paper, is exploring the assumptions games (and, perhaps, other role-playing materials) make about Austen’s world: namely, the ways in which that world has probably been idealized. This might involve using questions of race and gender, and/or omission of certain dimensions of life in Regency England, to consider the implications of imposing present-day sensibilities on a historical narrative.


    1. Thanks, Alissa. The most recent and comprehensive book on the history of Austen adaptations is Devoney Looser’s Making of Jane Austen. I don’t know if she covers the games, but I think treating the games as yet another example of adaptations seems very reasonable. In terms of the scope, I’d recommend that beyond a particular Austen text you focus the essay at this stage on a particular game, and use any others as supplemental examples. You can always expand it later, if you are trying to revise it for publication (which I’d support). Looking at adaptation theory and Austen to see how the film and stage adaptations were received also makes sense (Looser’s bib should give you some leads on this), or sources like the Cambridge Guide to Jane Austen. Good luck!


  2. One of the things that repeatedly struck me about Clarissa is how well Richardson uses the epistolary form. He takes advantage of the form and related narrative techniques to manipulate time, build tension by delaying the release of information, create chronological discontinuity, advance the plot, and cause miscommunication/misunderstandings between characters. So I’ve been desirous to examine Clarissa in comparison to another 18th-century epistolary novel, and in class last week Dr. Mazella suggested Frances Sheridan’s The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph. The novel is written as a series of diary entries framed by notes from an “editor,” as with Clarissa, and it explores some of the same themes.

    I think that the three articles I read for my first annotated bibliography (listed below) will likely be relevant to the project:

    Babb, Howard S. “Richardson’s Narrative Mode in Clarissa.” Studies in English Literature, vol.
    16, no. 3, 1976, pp. 452–60.

    Johnson, Glen M. “Richarson’s ‘Editor’ in Clarissa. The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol.
    10, no. 2, 1980, pp. 99–114.

    Kaplan, Fred. “‘Our Short Story’: The Narrative Devices of Clarissa.” Studies in English
    Literature, 1500–1900, vol. 11, no. 3, 1971, pp. 549–62.

    Other Clarissa-related sources I might examine are:

    Hannaford, Richard. “Playing Her Dead Hand: Clarissa’s Posthumous Letters.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 35, no. 1, 1993, 79–102.

    Koehler, Martha J. “Epistolary Closure and Triangular Return in Richarson’s Clarissa.” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 24, no. 3, 1994, 153–72.

    Reeves, James Bryant. “Posthumous Presence in Richardson’s Clarissa.” Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, vol. 53, no. 3, 2013, 601–21.

    I’m not finding much written about The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph, especially not as relates to narrative technique, but there is some correspondence between Richardson and Sheridan published in Letters Written to and for Particular Friends (1761) that I want to look at.


    1. Very good Sarah. As always, the non-canonical writer represents a challenge but also a launching point for the canonical one. Your Richardson sources look good to me. For help with FS, start with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and databases like Google Scholar and MLA. I’m going to attempt to post my initial results here, or email them to you. Try to skim these and arrive at the most relevant 6-8 sources (3-4 per writer). Good luck!


  3. As mentioned during last class, I’m examining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey alongside Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and how both the novel and the film not only employ the Gothic genre to frame issues of marriage, money, and betrayal but also in what significant way(s) the parody of the Gothic contributes to each work. Of course, Austen’s work, although published posthumously, takes place in the early nineteenth century, and Corpse Bride, although not specified, takes place approximately in the late 1800s (so, not exactly the same time setting, but very near). Another interesting comparison could be made here to examine in what ways Burton’s contemporary perception and evaluation of the nineteenth century domestic customs differ from those Austen expresses. Naturally, there are fundamental differences which must be observed between the different modes used by Austen and Burton (novel vs. film), but I do not plan to spend too much time on this aspect. For one, I do not pretend myself a critic or scholar on film, and, secondly, I’d rather stick to issues of the Gothic, satire, and the targeted society/culture. As of now, I have very little secondary sources, which are:

    Glock, Waldo S. “Catherine Morland’s Gothic Delusions: A Defense of ‘Northanger Abbey.’” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, 1978, pp. 33–46. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1347760.

    Ray, Brian. “Tim Burton and the Idea of Fairy Tales.” Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity, edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix, by Jack Zipes, University Press of Colorado, 2010, pp. 198–218. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgn37.15.

    As suggested, I am currently looking for Gothic critics which span a great period of time, so as to get a good grasp on the subject. However, having never really focused on the Gothic genre outside of Southern Gothic, I am still searching for major names. I am having another difficulty finding sources that blend Gothic and parody in association with the eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries.

    When it comes to the film, I will most likely keep sources that specifically center on the mode, because I am not schooled in film. Moreover, this project is a comparison of the ways in which traits found in Northanger Abbey have migrated into Corpse Bride, and not so much the ways traits translate into film.


    1. For theorists of the gothic, esp as it moves across periods, I’d look first of all at the theorists your NA and CB sources are using. More generally, the historical approaches of Emma Clery or Angela Wright or Michael Gamer might be paired with a more transhistorical model like David Punter, William Hughes, Rosemary Jackson or one of the Cambridge guides to the Gothic.

      Google Scholar and MLA should give you some more peer reviewed options, which you can skim to find overlaps. I’ll put those into the next reply.

      Good luck!


  4. I’m still working through the research process and can’t quite talk with any finality about my argument, but I’m very interested in looking at Austen’s Juvenilia alongside political cartoons, as Dr. Mazella suggested. I think that ‘caricatures’ is a pretty apt term for the way Austen depicts the wealthy and gentile in those sketches. I’ve also been thinking about how readily they could have been adapted to an 18th/early 19th century version of Saturday Night Live.

    As usual, I’m getting a little over my head in research in terms of trying to understand at least some of the cultural context. I’m planning to pick up Jane Austen and the State of the Nation, Sheryl Craig’s 2015 book, Kathryn White’s 2016 book on the juvenilia and shorter works, David Grey’s 1989 book on the same material, and a couple of similar texts. There’s also a 2008 article, “Comic Fantasy in Jane Austen’s Juvenilia: Female Roguery and the Charms of Narcissism,” which seems promising.

    I did do a little poking around in the library database for scholarly, peer-reviewed work on SNL, but pickings are scarce—a lot of it seems to have come into focus during the 2016 election, though I did find an earlier piece on political parody during the Palin era. Perhaps it was the discussion of acting—both in class and in Mansfield Park—that has directed my research interest in this way. I am definitely still working the political cartoon angle, but I’m also really interested in that kind of understated exaggeration she uses in the Juvenilia and how incredibly skewering it is of the rich and useless. It’s very, shall I say…British?

    I also know that I need to be looking at the history, development, and works within the anti-Jacobin movement. Like I think I’ve said in class, I struggle to feel like I’m making valid claims about a work if I can’t also speak to or at least understand the field upon which it was first delivered. I wish there was more on SNL, because I think that’s actually a pretty fruitful comparison to make, considering the inclinations of Austen and the SNL writers towards a more deadpan, ironic comedy style, wherein the parodied characters seem totally oblivious to the madness or foolishness of their schemes.

    Basically, I’m in the research, research, research, think about it, research some more stage of writing at the moment, but I like to think I’m honing in more with every library database search. Jane Austen’s Juvenilia and the Grand Tradition of Social/Political Parody; that’s my angle.



  5. Very good, Amandelin. I think you’ve got the Juvenilia criticism covered fine, but you’ll probably need to restrict your focus a bit to make this work in your remaining time. The term you should be tracing is probably “caricature,” or “political caricature,” and the 18c experts on this are scholars like M. Dorothy George, Vince Carretta, Ron Paulson, or David Francis Taylor, in his book or below in this Lit Compass essay:


    Taylor’s work is pretty comprehensive in terms of previous scholarship, so you should be able to find what you need there. The SNL analogy is fine, but don’t let it draw you too far afield for this. If you want to think in terms of contemporary satire and parody, you might draw in Sophia McClennen, who discusses contemporary US politics in this way.

    Good luck!


  6. Building off of my annotated bibliography my study of 18th Century women’s forms of satire will compare Frances Burney’s The Witlings with Jane Austen’s satiric form. My reading thus begins with Burney’s play and the critical apparatus, and an understanding of her comic form and its goals will help focus the scope of the Austen texts I want to engage with.
    Darby, Barbara. Frances Burney Dramatist: Gender, Performance, and the Late-Eighteenth-Century Stage. The University of Kentucky Press.
    Of specific interest is the introduction and her chapter “Censored Women: The Witlings.” This critic follows the work of Margaret Ann Doody in studying Burney as a nascent feminist and explores the importance of comedy to her artistic practice and to 18th century discourse.
    Bilger, Audrey. Laughing Feminism: Subversive Comedy in Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen. Wayne State University Press.
    Bilger will be a very important critic for me to read as she frames controversies over comedy, Burney’s and Austen’s were both highly controversial, as expressions of cultural anxieties about the nature of laughter and of women. She studies how female authors invented formal conventions that allowed them to subvert the prevalent sentimental comedic forms that relied on images of domestic order and female submission to male power, which made it difficult for female writers to be both comical and critical.
    Skinner, Gillian, “‘My Muse loves a little Variety’: Writing Drama and the Creative Life of Frances Burney.”Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies Vol. 34 No. 2 (2011)
    This article employs a close reading of Burney’s journals and letters to examine three key points: the suppression of her first comedy, The Witlings. This reading aims to respond to the complexity of her body of work and “reveal the conflicting discourses of inspiration and labor”.
    Ray, Karen “The Witlings: Frances Bumey’s “Essay on Criticism” Restoration and Eighteenth Century Research.
    This critic studies Burney’s influences in her composition of The Witlings she finds that Burney’s satire is riddled with references to Alexander Pope’s Poem “Essay on Criticism”. She argues that: “Pope’s poem is a lesson in the dangers of bad judgment and the importance of good judgment. Burney’s play is a demonstration of this principle in dramatic action.”


  7. I am halfway through one of the sources I will incorporate into my paper, the “Epic and Novel” essay that begins Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination. Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel doesn’t really contrast the novel form with what came before it as much Bakhtin does, and I find Bakhtin’s comparisons helpful. He draws clearer lines in the difference between the epic and the novel, and also speaks to works being written between the time of the epic and the novel (including “high genres of classical antiquity and the Middle Ages,” which I’m not entirely sure yet what he means by that term). He also doesn’t locate the beginning of the novel so squarely in the 18th century, as Watt does. Instead, as Bakhtin puts it, “a new novel-type [emerged] in the eighteenth century” (9). He argues that one of the reasons it is difficult to pin down exactly what the novel is and how it is different from other genres is because it is a genre that is still very much in use and developing, whereas the era of the epic is seen as complete and in the past (1).

    One of the aspects of the novel he indirectly points out that I find interesting that does agree with Watt is the novel’s turn from a group mentality to that of a personal, individual mentality: The epic, he argues, is characterized by three features, two of which are following: “a national epic past” and “national tradition (not personal experience and the free thought that grows out of it)” (13). It was, in other words, a work that supposed a collective consumption, which one could argue became impossible as the world became more globalized.

    I’m imagining I will synthesize his theory somewhat with Watt’s, apply their descriptions of realism to Clarissa, and then see how their theories square or don’t square with an amatory fiction. On the face of it, amatory fictions are fulfilling some of the novel description Bakhtin supplies, but not as thoroughly as the later novels we’ve read for the class. I haven’t finished the essay yet to see if Bakhtin touches on anything like the amatory fictions of the 18th century, and where he would place them within the trajectory of the developing novel style, but I’m curious to see how he places them or to try and place them myself. I am not sure if I would argue they are mostly following conventions of the epic, still, or if they are some kind of mesh of narrative style handed down from the epic and the awakening novelistic realism that Bakhtin and Watt describe.


  8. Very nice, Annie. Bakhtin’s theory seems much more interested in fiction + satire hybrids, which is one version of the serio comic genres he explores. Bowers or Ballaster are going to be more centered on the amatory fiction genre, I’d expect. For a number of reasons, the novel’s individualism Watt describes overlaps with that of Bakhtin.

    However, the questions of voice and gender are certainly implicated in Bakhtin, too, and Richetti does have an essay that looks relevant:

    RICHETTI, JOHN J. “VOICE AND GENDER IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY FICTION: HAYWOOD TO BURNEY.” Studies in the Novel 19, no. 3 (1987): 263-72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/29532506.

    Try to focus on a particular amatory fiction (I’d recommend one of Haywoods brief ones) and you should be able to pull together your sources for an essay. Let me know how it’s coming along.

    Good luck!



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