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Mansfield Park
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Post-Austen Reads-NOT Fanfiction > Mansfield Park - Literary Criticism?

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Holly Fairall (birdbrainbooks) (birdbrainbooks) | 48 comments I am finishing reading Mansfield Park and as a former English major, would love to read some literary criticism once I've finished. Having a hard time searching online to find lists of recommended criticism or essays, so thought I'd reach out here. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!


Karlyne Landrum I'm a few chapters into it right now, so I'll be interested in what you find!
Have you posted your own comments on it anyplace else?


Lisa (lisadannatt) | 148 comments Interested too...


Karishma Destiny's Fav Child (geeky_karishma) | 5 comments hey anyone up for a discussion about the character of Fanny Price? How do you guys like the character? Would be interested for a discussion!


Holly Fairall (birdbrainbooks) (birdbrainbooks) | 48 comments I just finished the book! Won't give things away. I really liked her character, although I am now going back and reading the introduction to the version I read (I always read them afterwards), the Barnes & Noble edition with introduction by Amanda Claybaugh, and she is so far making some really interesting points about Fanny vs. Mary Crawford. Mainly pointing out how Mary is more the typical Austen heroine, which makes it surprising that Fanny is the actual heroine here. Also pointed how how Fanny never really says or does much, aka never "acts" just like she refuses to act in the play.

Also, to follow up on my original question on this post: here is a list of crit in the back of my edition. Haven't read any yet but thought I'd share:

Butler, Marilyn - Jane Austen and the War of Ideas
Duckworth, Alistair M. - The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen's Novels
Fraiman, Susan - Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development
Gay, Penny - Jane Austen and the Theatre
Johnson, Claudia L. - Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel
LItvak, Joseph - Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-Century English Novel
Miller, D. A. - Jane Austen, or the Secret of Style
Moretti, Franco - The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture
Tanner, Tony - Jane Austen
SAid, Edward W. - Culture and Imperialism
Williams, Raymond - The Country and the City

Also printed one out myself from JASNA:
Burns, Melissa - Jane Austen's Mansfield Park: Determining Authorial Intention


Karlyne Landrum I think it's fairly unusual for people (maybe modern readers?) to like Fanny on first reading Mansfield Park, Holly! I know that although I didn't dislike her, I certainly didn't understand her until I'd read the book several times.
Mary may be more of a typical Austen heroine in that she is lively (like Elizabeth and Emma especially, not so much like Elinor or Anne and nothing like Catherine), but the whole point of the book, I think, is to show the extreme difference between Mary's moral compass and Fanny's. Fanny's is almost an exaggerated morality- which is why she is so often perceived as prudish. And Mary seems plausible, close to perfection, until we see her through Fanny's eyes.

The last crit, "Determining Authorial Intention": wow! That's hard to do! I'm always careful with deceased authors, because it just doesn't seem fair to make judgments that they can't rebut!


Holly Fairall (birdbrainbooks) (birdbrainbooks) | 48 comments Yeah I wasn't a huge fan of that last one, actually.

And although I was comparing Fanny and Mary, I did actually like Fanny! I'd heard from a lot of people before I read who didn't, but I was luckily able to keep an open mind and appreciate her character for the most part. She wasn't perfect but she did seem very real to me; she was supposed to be a "perfect" kind of character but while reading I was able to still see a lot of her flaws without looking down on them; they just seemed like flaws any 18-year-old sheltered and somewhat love-deprived girl would have.


Karlyne Landrum Exactly, Holly! Most complaints are that she's too "perfect", but I don't see her that way (I was going to say that Austen didn't intend to portray her as perfect, and then I thought, "How dare you say so, ma'am?" Sometimes I need to talk to myself severely.), either. She really is just a sheltered, love-deprived, and shy girl of 18. And sweet, too!


Tony (tony_aguila) | 39 comments For a real eye-opener review of Mansfield Park, read the first volume of Robert Rodi’s Bitch In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps. The Kindle book is only $0.99, well worth the read.

The author gives a scathing review of the novel, in contrast to the adoration he shows for the first two books. He is still working on volume 2, starting with Emma, but you can read the advance drafts in his blog. And if you don’t wish to spend the $0.99 for the Kindle book, the Mansfield Park chapters are also available there.

http://www.robertrodi.com/blogs/rober...


Nicole D. (thereadingrebel) | 80 comments A Truth Universally Acknowledged 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen by Susannah Carson has some really great essays on all of Jane Austen's novels.


Karlyne Landrum My 1964 paperback (what a well-made copy, by the way!) has an afterword by Marvin Mudrick, Holly, which is an interesting take on the book. I especially like his assertion that Sir Thomas' principles are a lot to blame for all that happened -- because they were not self-examined.


Victoria_Grossack Grossack (victoriagrossack) | 94 comments I read a commentary (not with me at the moment, sorry for the lack of reference but I think it's Tony Tanner) which describes Mansfield Park as a question about ordination. What will Edmund choose?

It's clear that Sir Thomas really needs to reconsider what is more important in life. He is so superficial at first that he takes the stupid Lady Bertram for a wife and listens to the advice of Mrs. Norris. Even when he returns he is still misguided, by allowing his daughter to marry Mr. Rushworth and trying to get Fanny to accept Mr. Crawford. Of course, the young people are not exactly confiding in him so his mistake may be understandable.

I always wondered what went on while he was away in the West Indies - he was probably a slave owner or profiting from it. Did it affect him?


Karlyne Landrum While watching the film, it was really brought home to me that Edmund did have a choice. He could have chosen to not be ordained, and, although we don't know that he thought of it, since Mary had money of her own he could have married where his heart was leading him, and then had leisure to pursue another career. While reading the book, I never had a moment's doubt that Edmund would be ordained. It's nice to watch a film that actually enhances without taking liberties with the book!
Ah, Lady Bertram! In this reading, I was really struck by the fact that she actually does things! And, as when writing letters, actually does them rather well. I can only imagine how she must get her "fringe" tangled up; that must be one of the reasons she "cannot do without Fanny". But she doesn't seem to just loll around and eat (or watch TV? hahahah), and although she does fall asleep often, she makes intelligible remarks at times. I think her dullness has increased over the years because she is so very contented to be self-indulgent and lazy. And, doesn't she remind you a bit of Mr. Woodhouse?

Sir Thomas had principles, but I don't think he ever examined why they were important to him. Perhaps he just inherited them, like a sober temperament? It's not until his world falls apart that he realizes that he has not instilled any steadiness of character into his children and that, in fact, he never knew them. But I quite come to like him for the fact that he takes the blame for their behavior and doesn't sugar-coat his own responsibility. He cares more about his remaining children after all this trial and even shows that he cares!

I've never been able to understand any part of the slave trade, never been able to understand how anyone with a brain and a heart could bear to be involved in it. If he was involved, it would have had to affect him (as he was not an evil man), and maybe it did soften him a bit? Make him a bit readier to see his own failings?


message 14: by Karlyne (last edited Sep 05, 2013 01:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karlyne Landrum One complaint about the film, by the way! It showed Maria and Henry passionately kissing during the play, which may have made it easier for the audience to understand Fanny's aversion to him, but I think that if Fanny had witnessed such overt misbehavior, she would have felt compelled to do something about it; at the very least she would have talked to Maria - or Edmund. So, I think that was a misstep!


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Lisa (lisadannatt) | 148 comments Karlyne
I like your comments about Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram
In the novel I felt that Edmund was unequivocally choosing to be ordained, that there were noe extrinsic motivating factors


Karlyne Landrum Thanks, Lisa! I enjoy this book more every time I read it!
I never feared that Edmund was going to choose his emotions over his convictions, either. But I think I hadn't really thought about it being a choice before!


Marcy (marshein) | 2 comments Holly wrote: "I am finishing reading Mansfield Park and as a former English major, would love to read some literary criticism once I've finished. Having a hard time searching online to find lists of recommended..."

I am reading Bitch in a Bonnet, which analyzes Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. I read thru P&P and am about to begin Mansfield Park. I'll let you know how it is. In general I like Bitch in a Bonnet, tho I could've done without calling dear Jane the B---- word! The analysis is thought provoking.


Judith (judithgrace) | 2 comments Don't like that title at all...


Marcy (marshein) | 2 comments Me neither. I wish he had not used the B word on Jane, and no doubt it has turned away many readers. But, I am now reading his critique of Mansfield Park, and I just posted this in another MP discussion:

...he talks a lot at the start of Mansfield Park section about slavery and their business in Antigua. He refers to it as if all readers figured it out, but I didn't and never thought twice about "the business in Antigua" until I saw one of the movies that included something about it--Tom's drawings of slaves being whipped and such. I'm going to reread MP, and pay attention to this, but I wonder if others knew the family fortunes were based on owning slaves for their business, and Antigua was a horribly brutal place.


message 20: by Tony (last edited Oct 13, 2013 12:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony (tony_aguila) | 39 comments Marcy wrote: "Me neither. I wish he had not used the B word on Jane, and no doubt it has turned away many readers. But, I am now reading his critique of Mansfield Park, and I just posted this in another MP discu..."

Let me start with a passage from Bitch in a Bonnet:

… because the meat of Jane Austen is character, and the reason we love her—the reason she’s immortal—is the absolute sureness of touch with which she renders her cast’s vanity, venality, hypocrisy and greed. To wit:
Mr. Yates was particularly pleased; he had been sighing and longing to do the Baron at Ecclesford, and had grudged every rant of Lord Ravenshaw’s, and had been forced to re-rant it all in his own room.

Take out passages like this, and you essentially gut Jane Austen with a Bowie knife. And what you’ve got left is pretty people in their waistcoats and pelisses, gliding about being photogenic. Which is, believe it or not, exactly what some people want from Austen. Seriously. I’ve met them. What they crave is less Jane Austen than The Jane Austen Catalog, which chapeaus and gloves and china cups you can imagine wantonly Adding To Cart. …

For the most part, I share Mr Rodi’s sentiments, and it’s from sheer frustration that he chose to hit the reader on the head with his cluebat fitted with spikes—for the shock value—in the hope that the message would sink in. I concur.

Jane, on the other hand, would hit you on the head with her cluebat, wrapped in lace, perhaps not as effective especially on the contemporary reader. Nevertheless, Jane was a social activist. Critics have accused her of being indifferent to social issues of the time—slavery, the war with Napoleon, and even the plight of the lower classes. But she had her hands full as it was. She was trying to make the reader aware of the terrible injustice to women—the entail; their relegation to quietly reading, sitting, or sewing; or even the prejudice towards ladies who merely try to speak their minds.

She was the first to admit that her scope was narrow, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

And while Mary Wollstonecraft was promoting women’s rights in Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Austen was laying the groundwork for First Impressions (aka Pride and Prejudice). So who turned out to be the more effective writer? I have read Vindication, but have you? It’s about time that her readers truly appreciate what she worked for so tirelessly, and perhaps shock value is the most effective means.

But for those who still cannot take it upon themselves to acknowledge what Austen was truly all about, perhaps a more sedate and scholarly piece will be just as eye-opening, albeit less traumatic. I recommend reading William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education.

While I believe that Rodi’s critique of Mansfield Park was too harsh and maybe unfair, his point was valid. Fanny Price was indeed too weak of a character, and so was Edmund, and MP was not Jane’s best work. So is it any wonder that Mansfield Park is the least read, and least loved, of all her books? But who’s the greatest English language author of all-time now?


Marcy (marshein) | 2 comments “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Tony, can you say where you got this quote from? I'm curious, might want to read that critique.
For the most part I agree with what you've said, and certainly that Austen was consciously exposing the plight of women in her time. Although Rodi does overdo things a lot, at least he's giving Austen her due in this area. Thus I regret that a lot of Austen lovers won't read his book because of that title.


message 22: by Tony (last edited Oct 14, 2013 10:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony (tony_aguila) | 39 comments Marcy wrote: “ Tony, can you say where you got this quote from?”

Hi, Marcy. You can find that passage in William Austen-Leigh’s Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters. I have the book, but, for instant gratification, I think you can find in on Kindle, or you could go to Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org). Just do a search for “jane austen her life and letters.”

I’ve given up trying to educate others on the scholastic side of Austen. If all they want to do is swoon over hot guys in wet shirts, let them. It will not change my love for Jane Austen.

By the way, if you are able to secure a copy of the book, look up the letters regarding Mr Haden. In my opinion, it shows a very human side of Jane that few “fans” will be willing to acknowledge. You might realize that the real Jane Austen was way more interesting than any of her characters.


message 23: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Ennos | 39 comments One aspect of Mansfield Park that has barely been discussed is how the plot of the novel is based upon events in the life of the author Fanny Burney as well as events in Jane Austen's life. The character of Fanny Price is to some extent based on the character of Fanny Burney. Clare Harman touches upon this in her biography of Fanny Burney and I expand on this in much greater detail in my recently published book "Jane Austen - A New Revelation".


QNPoohBear | 601 comments The first real literary criticism of Jane Austen came in the late 1800s. Godwin Smith, Richard Simpson, Margaret Oliphant, and Leslie Stephen are the first critics. Around the turn of the 20th century, Austen's novels began to be studied at universities and appear in histories of the English novel. Around 1900, members of the literary elite claimed an appreciation of Austen as a mark of culture referred to themselves as Janeites to distinguish themselves from the masses who, in their view, did not properly understand Austen. Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C. Bradley's 1911 essay, "generally regarded as the starting-point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen". Early-20th century critic of R. W. Chapman collected Jane Austen's works into definitive editions.

Early Janeites looked at Mansfield Park and discussed the issues within. There's tons of literary criticism of the novel still in print.

Amanda Vickery's documentary The Many Lovers of Jane Austen chronicles the development of Jane Austen as serious literature. Because I'm lazy and it's late, I copied/pasted from Wikipedia.


message 25: by Abigail (last edited Sep 06, 2014 09:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 480 comments As to the original inquiry: I found a thesis by Scott Caddy from Ohio titled “(Mis)Appropriating (Con)Text: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park in Contemporary Literary Criticism and Film,” which ought to have a fairly extensive bibliography (though I didn’t confirm).


message 26: by Lona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lona Manning | 89 comments Heckuva good long essay here http://brooklynrail.org/2017/03/ficti... by Canadian author Douglas Glover. It's "scholarly" but quite readable. Funny thing, it's long, but no mention of the dreaded Mrs. Norris! A sympathetic defense of Fanny Price, though.


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Lona Manning | 89 comments At Austen Authors blog, I have a post about the theory that "Mansfield Park" is Jane Austen's answer to the "conduct novel," a popular genre of the day, which taught moral lessons in novel form. Alcott's "Little Women" is an example of a conduct novel.
http://bit.ly/MPconduct


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Nina Clare | 58 comments Lona wrote: "At Austen Authors blog, I have a post about the theory that "Mansfield Park" is Jane Austen's answer to the "conduct novel," a popular genre of the day, which taught moral lessons in novel form. Al..."

Really interesting article, Lona. I hadn't thought of MP as a conduct novel, but it makes sense. You mentioned in your article that you don't think MP is an anti-slavery novel. Why do you think Austen used the names of Mansfield and Norris if she wasn't drawing attention to the slavery issue?


message 29: by Lona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lona Manning | 89 comments Hi Nina, first of all the suggestion that she used those names to refer specifically to Lord Mansfield and slave-master Norris is a modern suggestion which has been accepted as gospel, so to speak. There is nothing contemporary to Austen's time to confirm it. Also, narratively, I can see naming Mrs. Norris after a slaver, but why is Sir Thomas Bertram's house, the one built on the proceeds of slavery, called Mansfield Park? I do have a reference somewhere to another source for the names--I've been trying to find it! I'll have to write at more length.


message 30: by Lona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lona Manning | 89 comments Or, I poo-poo all over Dr. Helena Kelly's chapter about Mansfield Park here: http://www.lonamanning.ca/blog/catego....

Of course, everyone is free to disagree...


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 169 comments Lona wrote: "Or, I poo-poo all over Dr. Helena Kelly's chapter about Mansfield Park here: http://www.lonamanning.ca/blog/catego....

Of course, everyone is free to disagree..."


I'll be sure to stay away from H Kelly.

From your comments, It looks as if Kelly found what she wanted to see in JAs writings.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 169 comments Lona wrote: "At Austen Authors blog, I have a post about the theory that "Mansfield Park" is Jane Austen's answer to the "conduct novel," a popular genre of the day, which taught moral lessons in novel form. Al..."

Thank you for sharing that post.

I didn't know much about the genre of "conduct novel," nor any specific examples.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 169 comments Lona,

What is your assessment of Shepard's annotated Mansfield Park?

Its not that popular in JAs body of work, but I really like it MP.

I still haven't had a chance to read it. I have read MP of course, but I thought the annotated edition might be worth while.


message 34: by Lona (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lona Manning | 89 comments I do have it, but it's been in storage for a year! I remember reading the foreword and thinking it was excellent. I can't remember what he says about the slavery connection, or if he says anything. He probably does. I must dig it out!


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 169 comments Thanks for responding Lona!


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