Summary Post!

In this post I’m going to cover the ways in which the conclusions of my final paper deviated from my original intentions.

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Blog Post 3: An Unexpected Journey

The deed is done. The paper is finished (for now). Ten rambling pages have been titled “rough draft” and emailed off to several beta readers in my desperate search for validation. These ten pages give me slight anxiety because, as I should know by now, three weeks of reading one book and then ten other books about that book and movies of that book and repeatedly hitting your head against a wall can lead to some significant departures from where you were originally thought you were headed. As for where I thought I was headed compared to where I ended up, I will save that for my last summary blog post (another unexpected twist on this journey, by the way). What I will address in this post is some of the sources that were most helpful to me in my research, and some of the struggles in cobbling together all my disparate points into one.

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Blog Post 2: A Lot of Opinions

Today marks the official end of the second phase of my research: secondary source week. Seven books from Swem and countless online articles later, I can now confidently and definitively say that people have a lot of opinions. Furthermore, these opinions are all so contradictory that I have to wonder if they’ve all read the same book. I have found, however, that when it comes to Mansfield Park, these opinions can be boiled down into two camps. The first camp, and the one that initially intrigued me the most, is that Jane Austen was a sneaky secret radical sprinkling clever coded hints about abolition and feminism into her books like breadcrumbs. There are unfortunately a lot of holes in this stance, which I’ll get to later. The second camp is that Jane Austen was a complacent and complicit conservative woman who embraced the values of her class unapologetically, and these supposedly coded hints are simply coincidental or irrelevant. There are also a lot of holes in this stance, so my task this week was to piece together points from each side to find a happy (?) medium.

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Blog Post 1: Austenomics, Slavery, and Silence

In my proposal, I dedicated my first week of research to going over primary sources: specifically, the Jane Austen novel Mansfield Park and a couple film adaptations. In reality, there was so much more to read about Mansfield Park, one of Austen’s only works that mentions slavery, than I thought. “Primary sources” ended up including criticisms of the novel by Austen’s contemporaries; speeches made in Parliament for and against the abolition of the slave trade; anti-slavery treatises written by Austen’s favorite author, Thomas Clark; Regency-era guidebooks instructing young ladies how to behave; several of Austen’s letters; and a family record penned by one of Austen’s descendants.

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