Toby Benis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of English, will present "The Home as Proto-Parish: Fanny Price in Austen’s Mansfield Park," as part of the Women and Gender Studies Brown Bag series from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Room 144, McGannon Hall.
Mansfield Park is the least loved of Jane Austen's six novels, in part because of its problematic heroine. Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet (from Pride and Prejudice); Fanny has been viewed as weak, judgmental, prudish, and passive-aggressive. This presentation tries to explain Fanny's behavior in terms of the religious debates of Austen's lifetime. The Church of England was increasingly criticized in this time period for its lax expectations of both clergymen and their congregations. Fanny's activities in the home respond to this criticism by offering female-ordered interior activities as models for clerical activity in the rural parish community. This approach reveals a strength of vision and will in her character often overlooked by Austen's fans and by scholars.
Each semester the WGS Department sponsors a brown bag lunch series at which speakers present their research and engage the audience in discussion about the topic. The topics vary, as do the disciplines of the speakers and the points of view they represent. The setting is informal and also serves as a chance to learn more about the range of Women's and Gender Studies scholarship and to meet students and faculty with similar interests.
Participants should bring lunch. Dessert and beverages are provided.