Spectral Texts in Mansfield Park

  • Katie Halsey


‘I will not allow books to prove anything’,1 says Anne Elliot to Captain Harville in Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1818). In the teeth of this statement, I will argue here that the appearance of a book in Austen’s novels is, in fact, always important. Examining Austen’s use of books and literary references in Mansfield Park within the context of late eighteenth-century conduct-book assumptions about reading (represented here by the works of Hannah More) I argue throughout that Austen’s use of other texts and authors is never ideologically neutral or artistically unimportant. Of particular interest are ‘spectral texts’ — literary works that hover in the margins of the novel, not always directly acknowledged, but always reflecting or refracting some of Mansfield Park’s central concerns about ethics and morality — and the ways in which those texts enrich and complicate the relationship between narrative voice, heroine and reader. Under consideration throughout is reading matter, but more importantly, how Jane Austen makes reading matter.


Literary Reference Young Lady Moral Guide Moral Lesson Narrative Voice 
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© Katie Halsey 2005

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  • Katie Halsey

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