With three months of guest posts on Mansfield Park, it’s possible that you might have missed a post or two. Maybe you missed the week where we looked at the link between a high fat diet and sudden death, or the weeks where we talked about whether Mary Crawford is “as bad as [her] brother,” or the weeks where we discussed whether Jane Austen could possibly have been talking about sodomy and whether she meant for us to understand those spikes at Sotherton literally or figuratively.
Maybe you’re just discovering the series, in which case — welcome! Or maybe you’ve been following along, but you’d like to go back to the first post on the opening paragraph and read everything in order.
Here’s a guide to everything that’s appeared so far in “An Invitation to Mansfield Park.”
Part 1: “Clarity and Complexity: Mansfield Park Begins,” by Lyn Bennett:
Far from famous, Mansfield Park’s first line doesn’t offer the memorable simplicity of “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Part 2: “Adopting Affection,” by Judith Thompson:
I have a secret to confess. I’ve always liked Fanny Price, even though she is generally agreed to be the most tight-ass heroine of the most conservative novelist of the romantic era, whereas I’m passionately in love with one of that era’s most kick-ass revolutionaries, the radical activist and atheist John Thelwall.
Part 3: “First Impressions of Fanny Price,” by Jennie Duke:
… with “nothing to disgust,” “no glow,” the description is largely about what she is not.
Part 4: “Why Tom Bertram is right that Dr. Grant will ‘soon pop off,’“ by Cheryl Kinney:
It would not be until the next century that the association between diet and sudden death was firmly and scientifically established. Jane Austen, without formal medical training, required no such length of time to come to the correct medical conclusion – that people who must have their “palate consulted in everything” (Chapter 11) and who indulge in “three great institutionary dinners in one week” (Chapter 48) would be at risk to suffer apoplexy and death.
Part 5: “Mary Crawford and the Mansfield ‘cure,’“ by Katie Davis:
This brief passage in Chapter 5 calls our attention to a few of the central questions of Austen’s novel: to what extent can the opinions and habits of fully-formed adults be changed – or “cured” – by entering into community with people whose opinions and habits are, in crucial ways, totally different? What is required for such a transformation?
Part 6: “Scattering Seeds of Kindness,” by Mary C.M. Phillips:
Random acts of kindness may often come from the most unlikely of characters. An ambitious social climber might have a better eye for injustice than even the most sincere clergyman. To some, Mary Crawford, the charming antagonist of Mansfield Park, is considered shallow, immoral and unprincipled. But not to me.
Part 7: “A Gentleman’s Improvements: Mr. Rushworth, Humphry Repton, Fanny Price and Fashionable Landscaping,” by Jacqui Grainger:
Wealth and status, power and the responsible use of money are persistent themes in the work of Jane Austen. Austen uses the idea of improvement to reflect varying attitudes to money and its appropriate disposal.
Part 8: “Rears and Vices,” by Devoney Looser:
To suggest that there is sex in Mansfield Park – at least in the way that recent film and television adaptations tend to – is rubbish. … That said, there is sexuality (even dangerous, illicit sex) in Mansfield Park, albeit between the lines.
Part 9: “Something from Nothing,” by Mary Lu Roffey Redden:
Mary Crawford’s reply to Edmund’s planned ordination may be cynical about the church – “A clergyman is nothing” – but she is also surprisingly insightful about issues that still resonate for clergy: what is the difference between a vocation that may mean relative poverty and social obscurity and a profession in which one seeks advancement, a good salary and some social standing?
Part 10: “The Fatal Mistake,” by Deborah Yaffe:
How do we know that Maria’s unwillingness to wait for Rushworth to bring her the key to the gate prefigures her unwillingness to remain faithful to him within the fenced wilderness of marriage?
Partly, of course, we know all this because we are post-Freudian readers, primed to see keys and spikes and tears as sexual codes. How, then, do we know that the pre-Freudian Jane Austen had this metaphorical reading in mind?
Part 11: “Dr. Grant’s Green Goose,” by Julie Strong:
Part 12: “Is Edmund Bertram right about anything?” by Juliet McMaster:
… what interests me is the extent to which Edmund’s piece of wisdom may actually apply to himself. I have long believed that Edmund, even while he consciously courts Mary Crawford, is equally in love with Fanny – or indeed even more so.
Part 13: “Angry White Female: An Apology for Mrs. Norris,” by George Justice:
In a novel with unclear heroes and heroines, Mrs. Norris is—or would seem to be—an unambiguous villain. She is mean-spirited, self-serving, erroneous, obsequious: fully hideous.
Part 14: “Austens Ands, Ors, and Buts,” by Lynn Festa:
Conjunctions both join and sunder: they yoke individual words or the separate clauses of a sentence together, but they are also physically interposed between the parts they are supposed to unite. In this passage, conjunctions serve as barriers as much as bridges: “and” fails to conjoin; “or” fails to offer viable alternatives; and “but” fails to make an exception or mitigate the lack of connection it seeks to overcome.
All the contributions are also listed on this page, “An Invitation to Mansfield Park,” along with many other essays on the novel published elsewhere on the web. If you’re on Pinterest, you might be interested in my Mansfield Park board. And I also talk about the novel on Facebook and Twitter (@Sarah_Emsley).
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to the series so far, by writing guest posts, by reading them, and by commenting on them. I’m learning so much about this brilliant but often under-appreciated novel, and I’m so glad you’re all joining me in celebrating the 200th anniversary.
You won’t want to miss the upcoming posts in the series, which runs to the end of December. Coming soon: David Monaghan, Diana Birchall, Deborah Barnum, Laurel Ann Nattress, Lorrie Clark, Elaine Bander, Maggie Arnold, Hugh Kindred, Natasha Duquette, Margaret Horwitz, Sarah Woodberry, Joyce Tarpley, Syrie James, John Baxter, Sharon Hamilton, Sara Malton, Maggie Sullivan, Amy Patterson, Karen Doornebos, Lynn Shepherd, Elisabeth Lenckos, Sheryl Craig, Ryder Kessler, and Sheila Johnson Kindred.
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P.S. The schedule for Mansfield Park guest posts is full – but if you’d like to write a guest post on Emma in 2016, let me know, as I’ll probably want to celebrate that bicentennial, too…. Write to me (semsley at gmail dot com) or leave a comment below if you think we should have a party here for Emma. I’m already excited about the JASNA 2016 AGM in Washington, DC: “Emma at 200: ‘No One But Herself.’”