Category Archives: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park and The Culture Wars

After a hiatus I have posted an article, Everything of Higher Consequence, on my Mansfield Park blog. Here I have brought together some of my thinking on the novel which also intersects with some recent thoughts on what makes progressives and conservatives tick. Given that the two stream of thought originated with the French revolution and Edmund Burke’s reaction to it, and the way that the baby-boomer culture wars have been fought out in Austen criticism (see Conservatives and Progressives) and Barack Obama’s objective to move beyond these culture wars (see about half of the posts on Andrew Sullivan’s blog), you can see strong convergence in these seemingly disparate areas covering philosophy and the enlightenment, Jane Austen’s writing and contemporary politics.

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Guilt-Tripped by Jane Austen’s World

[I for some reason that can’t fathom (age!–its happening) wrote AustenBlog when I meant Jane Austen’s World in an earlier version of this article. Corrected. Sorry for the confusion.]

Over at Jane Austen’s World Ms Place very kindly point out the Mansfield Park commentary blog that I am wait for readers to notice before I progress beyond the initial articles. And in response to Ms Places post I have seen the up-tick in interest I have been waiting for so I will shortly resume with the commentary on the Mansfield Park blog.

I must confess to feeling a little guilty at combining contemporary political issues, including some issues that are raw and surrounded with controversy in high contrast with the elegant and soothing Jane Austen’s World, echoing well the sense of A. C. Bradeley’s assessment that “her novels make exceptionally peaceful reading”. And Ms Place gently scolds me in saying I write ‘about Jane’s novels, politics, and Buddhism. Recently his thoughts have turned mostly to Jane.’

Of course Ms Place does nothing of the kind (scolding me I mean)–it is just my tortured conscience imagining such a scolding for my tasteless mixing up of Austen’s perfect novels and our messy contemporary world.

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The Prince and the Novelist

[In this article I discuss and speculate on the curious relationship between Jane Austen and The Prince Regent.]

I was reminded on reading John Nash: The Prince Regent’s Architect at Jane Austen’s World of the mark that the Prince and his architect John Nash left on London. I live, if not quite in the shadow of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, actually in the shadow of the Prince Regent swimming pool that adjoins it, and can confirm that the pavilion has really come to define the identity of the city of Brighton and Hove.

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Puritans, Prigs and the Tyranny of Petty Coercion

Marilynne Robinson must be one of the greatest living English prose writers. Her novels (Housekeeping and Gilead) are widely admired, but it is her collection of essays in The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought that have captivated me. I have not anywhere read such powerful, exquisitely-crafted essays. It is difficult (if not meaningless) to try and compare writing from different times and places so if I was living in Samuel Johnson’s time I would no doubt come to a different conclusion but Robinson, by virtue of addressing current issues in a contemporary style is in better a position to captivate me. (Hat tip to Bryan Appleyard for putting me onto Robinson).

That Robinson’s essays should shine a new light on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, one of the most controversial works in the language by one its greatest writers is intriguing but few seem to have made the connection. Two essays in The Death of AdamPuritans and Prigs and The Tyranny of Petty Coercion—Marilynne Robinson has some unorthodox yet shrewd things to say about priggishness, morality and the tyranny of the modern groupthink, and they appear to have some relevance to the 20th century reaction to the heroine of Mansfield Park (‘the most terrible incarnation we have of the female prig-pharisee’ according to Farrer in 1917). Before coming to the ‘priggish’ Fanny Price, a recap of Robinson’s essays.

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