An Invitation to Mansfield Park

2014 was the Year of Fanny Price, and I wanted to celebrate Jane Austen’s strongest heroine. I put together an exciting series of guest posts on Mansfield Park and I was absolutely delighted to bring together so many interesting people to talk about this brilliant novel. All thirty-nine of the contributions to the series are listed below, along with my other blog posts on the novel and the 2014 JASNA AGM in Montreal, and links to essays on Mansfield Park elsewhere on the web.

An Invitation to Mansfield Park

Here’s the list of the wonderful people who wrote guest posts for “An Invitation to Mansfield Park“:

Mansfield ParkMaggie Arnold, Elaine Bander, Deborah Barnum, John Baxter, Lyn Bennett, Diana Birchall, Lorrie Clark, Sheryl Craig, Katie Davis, Karen Doornebos, Jennie Duke, Natasha Duquette, Lynn Festa, Jacqui Grainger, Sharon Hamilton, Margaret Horwitz, Syrie James, George Justice, Theresa Kenney, Ryder Kessler, Hugh Kindred, Sheila Johnson Kindred, Cheryl Kinney, Elisabeth Lenckos, Devoney Looser, Sara Malton, Juliet McMasterDavid MonaghanLaurel Ann Nattress, Amy Patterson, Mary C.M. Phillips, Mary Lu ReddenLynn Shepherd, Julie Strong, Margaret C. Sullivan, Joyce Tarpley, Judith Thompson, Deborah Yaffe, and Sarah Woodberry.

The series launched on May 9, 2014, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, with a new post every Friday until the end of the year, plus one post per day during the week of Jane Austen’s 239th birthday in December.

Vintage edition of Mansfield Park

Prelude to An Invitation to Mansfield Park:

“I have something in hand…” – The Publishing of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, by Deborah Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont, May 2, 2014:

“today I am going to talk about the physical object, the book Mansfield Park as part of our material culture – how did it come to be, what it looked like, who bought it and what it cost, followed by a brief introduction to the later printing history that included the American, illustrated and foreign editions.”

“The Great Novels of 1814: Austen, Burney, Edgeworth and Scott,” by Jacqui Grainger, May 7, 2014:

Maria Edgeworth, Image from Novels 1780-1920, Rare Books and Special Collections, University Library, University of Sydney“One of the many events this year to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of Austen’s Mansfield Park was the symposium held on the 16 April in the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library.”

Part 1: “Clarity and Complexity: Mansfield Park Begins,” by Lyn Bennett

Part 2: “Adopting Affection,” by Judith Thompson

Part 3: “First Impressions of Fanny Price,” by Jennie Duke

Part 4: “Why Tom Bertram is right that Dr. Grant will ‘soon pop off,'” by Cheryl Kinney

Part 5: “Mary Crawford and the Mansfield ‘cure,'” by Katie Davis

Part 6: “Scattering Seeds of Kindness,” by Mary C.M. Phillips

Part 7: “A Gentleman’s Improvements: Mr. Rushworth, Humphry Repton, Fanny Price and Fashionable Landscaping,” by Jacqui Grainger

Part 8: “Rears and Vices,” by Devoney Looser

Part 9: “Something from Nothing,” by Mary Lu Roffey Redden

Part 10: “The Fatal Mistake,” by Deborah Yaffe

Part 11: “Dr. Grant’s Green Goose,” by Julie Strong

Part 12: “Is Edmund Bertram right about anything?” by Juliet McMaster

Part 13: “Angry White Female: An Apology for Mrs. Norris,” by George Justice

Part 14: “Austen’s Ands, Ors, and Buts,” by Lynn Festa

Part 15: “Jane Austen: Dramatist,” by David Monaghan

Part 16: “The Scene-Painter,” by Diana Birchall. Read “The Scene-Painter, Part Two” here.

Part 17: “Jane Austen’s ‘dead silence,’ or, How Guilty is Sir Thomas Bertram?” by Deborah Barnum

Part 18: “Forming Minds: Mind and Memory in Mansfield Park,” by Lorrie Clark

Part 19: “Henry Crawford and Moral Taste,” by Elaine Bander

Part 20: “Mary Crawford: The Black Cloud of Mansfield Park,” by Laurel Ann Nattress

Part 21: “Discerning a Vocation in Mansfield Park — But Whose?” by Maggie Arnold

Part 22: “How should we read the character of William Price?” by Hugh Kindred

Part 23: “Fanny Price’s Prayers,” by Natasha Duquette

Part 24: “The Comfort of Friendship,” by Margaret Horwitz

Part 25: “On Turning Down Marriage Proposals,” by Syrie James

Part 26: “Fanny Price, Mind Reader,” by Joyce Tarpley

Part 27: “Worn Out with Civility at Mansfield Park,” by Sarah Woodberry

Part 28: “Fanny Price as a Student of Shakespeare,” by John Baxter

Part 29: “Austen’s Sirens,” by Sharon Hamilton

Part 30: “Refashioning Memory,” by Sara Malton

Part 31: “The Manipulations of Henry and Mary Crawford,” by Margaret C. Sullivan

Part 32: “Tantrums and Toasted Cheese: On Saying NO to Boys of All Ages,” by Amy Patterson

Part 33: “Why Tom Bertram Cannot Die,” by Theresa Kenney

Part 34: “‘Never had Fanny more wanted a cordial’: Comic Relief and Word Choice in Mansfield Park,” by Karen Doornebos

Part 35: “The Ghost of Another Novel Entirely,” by Lynn Shepherd

Part 36: “Flattery in Mansfield Park,” by Elisabeth Lenckos

Part 37: “‘A Matrimonial Fracas,'” by Sheryl Craig

Part 38: “‘I purposely abstain’: When Vagueness Becomes Refusal,” by Ryder Kessler

Part 39: “The Happy Endings of Mansfield Park,” by Sheila Kindred

Blog posts about An Invitation to Mansfield Park:

Your Invitation to Mansfield Park

200 Years of Mansfield Park!

Broadview edition of Mansfield ParkPlanning the Mansfield Park Party (Many thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of for the title “An Invitation to Mansfield Park.”)

I’m very happy to be hosting so many guest writers on my blog – but of course I can’t resist having “my share in the conversation” too, so here are some of the things I’ve written about Mansfield Park.

Mansfield Park is a Tragedy, Not a Comedy: “Many readers find the ending of Mansfield Park disappointing. I think that’s because most of us tend to approach Austen novels with the expectation that they will be romantic comedies. And most of them are. But not this one.” My essay “The Tragic Action of Mansfield Park,” based on the talk I gave at the JASNA 2006 AGM in Tucson and published first in Persuasions On-Line 28.1 (2007), was published in October 2014 in the MLA volume Approaches to Teaching Austen’s Mansfield Park, edited by Marcia McClintock Folsom and John Wiltshire.

Jane Austen's Philosophy of the Virtues“Fanny Price and the Contemplative Life,” Chapter Five in my book Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues. You can read a discussion of this chapter at Frigate to Utopia.

“‘My idea of a chapel’ in Jane Austen’s World” – this essay on the Sotherton Chapel scene in Chapter 9 of Mansfield Park was published in Persuasions 24 (2002) and was based on the talk I gave at the JASNA 2002 AGM in Toronto.

My thirteen-year-old friend Rose wrote about Gill Tavner’s adaptation of Mansfield Park: The Real Reads Mansfield Park — a review.

Here are the posts I’ve written about the 2014 JASNA AGM, “Mansfield Park in Montreal: Contexts, Conventions & Controversies”:

Elaine Bander in HalifaxElaine Bander in Halifax; Mansfield Park in Montréal

“We really do inhabit the novels”: An interview with Elaine Bander, President of JASNA Canada

Mr. Collins, Mansfield Park, and Jane Austen for Kids: An interview with Amy Patterson of Jane Austen Books

Mansfield Park in Montreal!

Listening to Mansfield Park

And I started a Pinterest board for Mansfield Park. Suggestions welcome!

“Mansfield Park: 200 Years: 1814-2014,” on the JASNA website:

Jane Austen’s contemporaries were just as divided in their views of the novel and Fanny Price as modern readers are …. Mansfield Park has sparked debate for 200 years, and we expect it to do so for at least 200 more!”

Links to articles on Mansfield Park elsewhere on the web:

Fresh Perspectives on Mansfield ParkEssays from the JASNA 2006 AGM in Tucson, AZ, “Fresh Perspectives on Mansfield Park,” published in Persuasions On-line 27.1 (2006).

“Ambiguous Cousinship: Mansfield Park and the Mansfield Family,” by Christine Kenyon Jones (Persuasions On-Line 31.1 [2010]):

“This article traces the possible links between a portrait of two members of the family of the famous eighteenth-century Judge, Lord Mansfield, and Austen’s Mansfield Park. It suggests that this portrayal of unequal cousinhood, within the context of the slave trade, may have influenced Austen’s treatment of these subjects in her novel.”

“This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes,” by Corrie Goldman (Stanford Report [September 2012]):

“Participants read a full chapter from Mansfield Park, which is projected onto a mirror inside an MRI scanner. Together with a verbal cue, color-coding on the text signals participants to move between two styles of attention: reading for pleasure or reading with a heightened attention to literary form. The use of the fMRI allows for a dynamic picture of blood flow in the brain, ‘basically, where neurons are firing, and when,’ said Phillips. Eye-tracking compatible with fMRI shows how people’s eyes move as they read. As Phillips explained, the micro-jumps of the eyes ‘can be aligned with the temporal blood flow to different regions in the brain.’”

“Lena Dunham’s Inviolable Self: Contrasting the Moral Worlds of Jane Austen and Girls,” by Alan Jacobs (First Things [May 2013]):

“In light of my recent reading about Girls, as I read Mansfield Park I found my attention drawn particularly to Henry Crawford, a young man who falls in love with Fanny, and to his sister Mary, with whom Fanny’s favorite cousin Edmund is enamored. They are elegant, charming, witty, accomplished—the right kind of people in every way, except that they are bad. Not conventionally villainous, but morally untethered, and therefore (yes) dangerous both to themselves and others.”

Mansfield Park“Jane Austen, Feminist Icon,” by Devoney Looser (Los Angeles Review of Books [January 20, 2014]):

“Poor Mansfield Park! What are its chances at capturing the limelight, cast as it is in the shadows and on the heels of Pride and Prejudice? No 12-foot fiberglass statue of Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram will be installed in a London lake.”

“Jane Austen note on family and prayer to be scrutinised in Mansfield Park celebration,” by Ben Miller (Culture 24 [January 31, 2014]).

“Love in a Time of Adultery: The Moral Vision of Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers,” by Christine Fletcher (ABC Religion and Ethics [February 11, 2014):

“I want to discuss Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers – and, in particular, Mansfield Park and Clouds of Witness – not as a literary critic, but as a moral philosopher.” … “They reject the autonomous individual of modernity who has no history, like Russell, and who defines freedom as freedom from restraint. Sayers and Austen, like all virtue ethicists, define freedom as freedom for pursuing the good. This is a crucial, life-giving distinction.”

Goodnestone Park

Goodnestone Park

“Jane Austen on Her Mansfield Park,” by Deborah Barnum (Jane Austen in Vermont, February 15, 2014):

The first in a series celebrating Mansfield Park at Jane Austen in Vermont, this post lists all the references to the novel in Austen’s letters.

“Dear Mary…,” by Maggie Lane (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“Dear Mary Crawford, As one of your warmest admirers, I am always so sorry when you find yourself shut out from Mansfield at the end of the book. Every time I reread I hope it might just turn out differently, but it never does. Two hundred years have now passed and you are still denied a happy ending. I wonder why you should be punished, not rewarded, for your delightful personality?”

A Victorian edition of Mansfield Park“A Creepmouse with a Nasty Bite,” by Hazel Jones (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“Every year I re-read Mansfield Park and appreciate the sheer brilliance of its interior design, the complexity and narrative skill that make it one of the most satisfying novels to study with adult groups. Every year I try my best to summon up some affection for Fanny Price, but the process invariably follows the same pattern. I begin by feeling sorry for her and understanding why she is as she is, quickly become impatient with her inability to act in any sense of the word and end with the certainty that I would not choose to spend much time in her uncomfortable company.”

“Falling in Love with Mansfield Park,” by Susannah Fullerton (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“I will never love [Fanny Price] the way I love Emma or Elizabeth, but I am extremely fond of her. I think she is Jane Austen’s strongest heroine – the way she stands up to Sir Thomas when he tries to bully her into marrying Henry Crawford shows enormous integrity and courage.”

Mansfield Park, 1973 Everyman edition“Judging Mansfield Park by its Cover,” by Jeanine Barchas (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“Because publishers have had to work a bit harder to sell their copies of this particular Austen novel, Mansfield Park has been repackaged and refashioned with gusto and flair.”

“How I Came to See Fanny Price’s Light,” by John Gould (JASNA Massachusetts, March 14, 2010):

Gould compares Fanny Price to Elizabeth Bennet and finds her similarly “clever, witty, spirited, really good looking, observant, and principled.”

“A Visit to the Sotherton Estate in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park,” by Tony Grant (Jane Austen in Vermont, April 18, 2014):

“Jane Austen, by introducing the idea that her characters in Mansfield Park should visit Sotherton and provide suggestions for the ‘improvement’ of the landscape, was creating a situation where individuals would be able to express their ‘taste,’ and so reveal their inner characters.”

“Jane Austen in Austin: A Regency display on view,” at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin:

“This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s most ambitious and controversial novel. To celebrate both the author and the cultural history behind this complex work, students in English Professor Janine Barchas’s fall 2013 graduate seminar curated two display cases relating to Austen and her culture.”

“In Which We Rant and Rave in Favor of Mansfield Park, by Laurel Ann Nattress (

“Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park really gets a bum rap from critics and readers. Sometimes I think that I am its only advocate, campaigning to an empty room.”

The Trouble with Flirting“Novels Inspired by Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, by Laurel Ann Nattress (

An introduction to Mansfield Park, plus summaries of chapters, by Laurel Ann Nattress (

“Happy Birthday Will Shakespeare!” by Deborah Barnum (Jane Austen in Vermont, April 23, 2014):

“His celebrated passages are quoted by every body; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions…,” says Edmund Bertram to Henry Crawford in Volume 3, Chapter 3 of Mansfield Park.

Mansfield Park – An Outsider’s View,” by Louise West (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“One particular circumstance which features more largely perhaps in Mansfield Park than in her other novels, is that of the poor relation.  Fanny is, by birth at least, the poorest of Austen’s heroines, and not until the end of the novel is she permitted to forget it, or to rise above her humble origins.”

Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan AikenMansfield Park Bicentenary!” and other posts on MP at Mansfield Park: Thoughts on Jane Austen’s Novel, including “The First Modern Novel” and Mansfield Park Fan Fiction.”

El Salón de Té de Jane: Club de Lectura: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park: El sitio de JAcastellano dedicado a Mansfield Park, la novela de Jane Austen

“Move over Lizzie Bennet — let’s hear it for the unsung heroine,” by John Mullan (on Fanny Price) and other writers (The Guardian, May 10, 2014):

“in creating a heroine condemned to suffer in secret and powerlessly to watch the follies of others, Austen managed something as audacious as the invention of Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park: A Little Bit About Tom Bertram,” by Deborah Barnum (Austen in Vermont, May 12, 2014):

“Who knew MP was so funny??”

“Why is Mansfield Park Jane Austen’s Best Book?” and other posts on MP at Wuthering Expectations, including “Why is Mansfield Park So Filthy?” and “Why is Jane Austen So Mean?”

“Insipid and unlikeable: Fanny and Emma as Austen’s Moral Mirrors,” by Amy Patterson (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“Emma’s suffering is not lessened by her strength of will, and Fanny’s is not soothed by her pious submission. Both suffer, both learn the content of their own hearts, and both resign themselves to future suffering before it is finally relieved by a return to their comfortable family scene.”

“Mansfield Park: First Impressions, Shifting Loyalties,” by Laurie Viera Rigler (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“Here is a woman who has been told since childhood that she is the lowest of the low, and yet she has the backbone to stand up to the biggest and most formidable male authority figure in her life, the person under whose very roof she lives, and say No to what he and everyone around her wants her to do—simply because she follows her inner guide.”

“Jane Austen’s Collection of Critical Feedback From Her (Sometimes Harsh) Friends and Family,” by Rebecca Onion (Slate, June 18, 2014).

“Playboys, Divas, and Bores: How does Austen nudge us into caring about the selfish characters in Mansfield Park?” by Karen Doornebos (Mansfield Park Musings, Jane Austen Society Nederland):

“… even boredom becomes – wait for it – interesting!”

“In Defense of Fanny Price,” by Tara Isabella Burton (Paris Review, July 10, 2014):

“In wanting Fanny to be cleverer, bolder, sexier than she is—in wanting her to be more like Mary—we become complicit in the world of Mansfield Park, and in the politics of exclusion through which Mansfield thrives.”

“Mansfield Park shows the dark side of Jane Austen,” by Paula Byrne (Telegraph, July 26, 2014):

“Why not write a novel undoing the heroine-centred courtship romance?”

“Simple Girl: The Improbable Solace of Mansfield Park,” by Anna Keesey (Los Angeles Review of Books, August 17, 2014):

“In her stillness, [Fanny Price] embodies civil disobedience, peaceful protest. She is the power of the nonviolent no. No, I won’t speak that way. No, I won’t cop that temporary attitude. No, I won’t marry that man. No, I won’t support that lie. She does not give in, and her resistance is ultimately irresistible. Mansfield reforms — re-forms — itself around the steel surveyor’s pin of her single determined soul.”

“Why boys love Jane Austen,” by Jonathan McAloon (The Spectator, September 2, 2014):

“Rereading Mansfield Park today (exactly 200 years since its publication), I think I’ve cracked why boys love Austen. For all the solidity and uprightness, her technique is all about slyness. Austen has it both ways. The prose – yes it’s very good and funny and all that – but it also does what boys of a literary bent are trained out of (in school, uni and life), but forever want to do. Austen says a lot with the most words possible. Her long, necessary sentences heap up meaning. She’s rich and economical.”

“Reading Jane Austen with Vladimir Nabokov,” by Janine Barchas (Johns Hopkins University Press Blog, October 3, 2014):

“In 2014, many Jane Austen fans have been rereading what is arguably her darkest and most difficult novel in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentenary. One unique copy of that novel, formerly owned by Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), enables the rereading of one great novelist over the shoulder of another.”

“Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in Pictures: The Illustrations of Philip Gough,” by Deborah Barnum (Austen in Vermont, December 30, 2014):

“Gough’s watercolors for the Jane Austen novels have a tendency toward ‘Pretty in Pink.'”

How are you celebrating 200 years of Mansfield Park?

70 thoughts on “An Invitation to Mansfield Park”

  1. I am looking forward to this very much! Mansfield Park has been my least ‘go to’ Austen; I will love getting new insights on this much misunderstood book. It leaves us feeling so conflicted (which is not typical of what we experience with Jane’s books) and I wanted better things for the fascinating Crawfords…have just finished ‘Speaking Of Jane Austen’ and love the (two) author’s differing viewpoints on Mansfield Park.


    • I’m happy to hear that you’re looking forward to the Mansfield Park celebrations. It is indeed a difficult novel, often misunderstood and endlessly fascinating. (And also — in relation to the conversation we were just having on today’s post about “Reliving the Regency Ball” — very difficult to film.) I can’t wait to read the guest posts by all these wonderful people who’ve agreed to write for the series!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m looking forward to gobbling up all kinds of information about Mansfield Park! I may be in the minority, but it’s always been in my top three of Austen’s novels. I had a soft spot for Fanny Price growing up. Great curation so far!


    • Glad you’re enjoying it. This is going to be fun — I’ve read some of the guest posts already and I’m excited to share them with everyone. Mansfield Park and Fanny Price don’t always get as much attention, but they certainly deserve a celebration. The more I learn about this novel, the more I appreciate its subtleties. Thanks for joining us!


  3. I’ve just discovered your Mansfield Park party (thanks to Caffeine Epiphanies where there is a button on the blog) and am delighted to have done so. Mansfield Park is just about my all time favourite novel, although I’m not actually a huge Fanny fan. I blogged about MP myself just a couple of days ago, after someone on Twitter (jokingly) said they’d like to kill Fanny. I’m really looking forward to catching up with the celebratory blog posts – but it wont be today as in a couple of hours we’re off on a day trip to visit the Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton House Library!


    • Have a wonderful time in Chawton! I’m happy to hear you’ve found your invitation to the MP party, and I’m looking forward to reading your blog post. Many thanks to Mary at Caffeine Epiphanies for spreading the word about the celebrations here.

      Liked by 2 people

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s