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‘Where She Could Not Follow’ – The Lesbian Subplot in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park

DOI: 10.5539/ells.v3n1p1

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Abstract:

Charlotte Bront complained about Jane Austen’s lack of passion, but the trademark irony in her novels was applied to many risqué subjects, in ways that have become increasingly obvious, making the myth of a sexless Austen untenable. In the last half century, a number of commentators have pointed at lesbian inclinations and attachments in Austen’s novels, generally focusing on the protagonist of Emma. Seemingly unnoticed by critics, Mansfield Park includes a lesbian subplot, discreetly but firmly embedded onto the main narrative, facilitating the internal development of the protagonist Fanny Price, contributing to the novel’s debate on ‘nature versus improvement’, and inspiring some of the most outrageous humour in the book. The present essay traces the lesbian subplot in Mansfield Park, and poses an invitation to marvel anew at a complex novel full of rich subversive moods.

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