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.

Firstly, I would like to advise all past, present, and future students of the English language that, if you are planning on ever writing about a book or even just trying to sound intelligent talking about a book in front of people you want to impress, please invest in the Norton Critical Edition of said book, if it exists. I got so many of my sources from the articles included in the Norton edition of Mansfield Park– not just academic articles, but records of parliamentary debates on slavery, the writings of feminist and abolitionist authors from Austen’s time period, the entire script of a play that the characters performed, a contemporary guidebook on how women should behave, and tons more. It really helped steer me in the right direction by providing a diverse set of wildly different academic interpretations and helped contextualize the book more. Norton is not paying me, by the way, but they should be.

The books and articles that I read outside of my beautiful beloved Norton were mainly either collections of postcolonial essays or feminist essays on Austen. Mansfield Park in particular attracts scholars from both these fields, and almost by default they end up pitted against each other. I addressed this in my paper, but I would love to say here, with slightly less pressure to write professionally, that in comparison to the vicious callouts in these papers, Twitter is tame. They literally go out and write whole twenty page articles just to attack one guy’s interpretation– they don’t even really give their own interpretation, they just specifically title it “A Refutation of This Guy, Because I Can” and rip apart his each and every point and publish it like two years after the first guy’s article came out. It’s incredible. But also kind of disappointing, because it’s essentially the same back-and-forth we’ve been having since suffragettes argued against granting voting rights to black people– marginalized voices competing against each other for recognition.

A good chunk of my paper was dedicated to finding the middle ground between these two fields. I wanted to find a way to recognize the validity of both sides while not tearing one or the other down, but also acknowledging some harsher truths. Some of these harsher truths unfortunately involved taking poor Jane off the pedestal I have had her on since about seventh grade. But the point of the project wasn’t to indulge my long-standing literary obsession, it was an investigation of historical context to determine the truth. Hopefully my paper accomplished that.

Comments

  1. Hello Kate, I deeply enjoyed reading this post. The fluidity, detail, and expressiveness of your writing makes for simultaneously entertaining and informative blog posts. Although not the main focus of this post, your mention of changing directions struck a chord with me. While completing the research stage of my project, I discovered primary and secondary sources that ultimately shifted the direction of my paper. As our projects stem from general research questions, they possess the potential to address unexpected topics in search of an answer. We can’t always predict the pathway to answering a research question. Anyway, to return to the main content of your post, I appreciated your mention of the interactions between your different sources. Analyzing preexisting “conversations” within the field provides a context incredibly helpful for
    More so, in analyzing academic conversations regarding Mansfield Park, you recognize the ultimately cross-disciplinary nature of media consumption. I do, however, have a quick question regarding the ideological disagreement between post-colonial and feminist analyses. Which stances are more common within post-colonial analysis versus feminist analysis? Do these stances carry over across all adaptations or vary with medium shifts? How exactly do they often oppose one another? If I were to guess, I’d assume that post-colonial analysis takes a more critical position in the face of Jane Austen’s often indirect literary interactions with slavery. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. If you need any more beta readers, just let me know! I’d be happy to oblige! I’m anticipating the big reveal regarding your project’s expected turns.

    -Sammy

  2. Hello Kate, I deeply enjoyed reading this post. The fluidity, detail, and expressiveness of your writing makes for simultaneously entertaining and informative blog posts. Although not the main focus of this post, your mention of changing directions struck a chord with me. While completing the research stage of my project, I discovered primary and secondary sources that ultimately shifted the direction of my paper. As our projects stem from general research questions, they possess the potential to address unexpected topics in search of an answer. We can’t always predict the pathway to answering a research question. Anyway, to return to the main content of your post, I appreciated your mention of the interactions between your different sources. Analyzing preexisting “conversations” within the field provides a context incredibly helpful for bridging the gaps between opposing arguments. More so, in analyzing academic conversations regarding Mansfield Park, you recognize the ultimately cross-disciplinary nature of media consumption. I do, however, have a quick question regarding the ideological disagreement between post-colonial and feminist analyses. Which stances are more common within post-colonial analysis versus feminist analysis? Do these stances carry over across all adaptations or vary with medium shifts? How exactly do they often oppose one another? If I were to guess, I’d assume that post-colonial analysis takes a more critical position in the face of Jane Austen’s often indirect literary interactions with slavery. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. If you need any more beta readers, just let me know! I’d be happy to oblige! I’m anticipating the big reveal regarding your project’s expected turns.

    -Sammy