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Breaking Free: Fanny Price in Mansfield Park

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St. Andrew's on the Terrace

30 The Terrace

Wellington, Wellington 6011

New Zealand

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A talk on freedom in Mansfield Park and a shorter talk on restoring an Austen house

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As a heroine, Fanny Price divides people. For many modern readers, she can seem just too quiet and self-effacing. She lacks that unshakeable sense of self-worth which – in very different ways – animates Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse.

My paper will take a different angle. I will look at how, from her unpromising beginnings, Fanny gains a real measure of adult authority over the course of the novel. In short, how she gradually manages to find her own distinctive voice.

Along the way, I will cover two contextual matters that inflect Austen’s story here: the position of the “dependent” female relative in English country households during the Regency period, and contemporary debates on personal liberty, including the abolitionist movement (i.e. the British-led initiatives to end the international slave trade). With all those pressures in mind, perhaps the mild Fanny is due for a more positive revaluation?

The talk will be illustrated with period pictures and engravings.

- Paul Stone


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St. Andrew's on the Terrace

30 The Terrace

Wellington, Wellington 6011

New Zealand

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