Publication Date

April 2010

Advisor(s)

Joseph Drury

Major

English

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis studies Jane Austen’s investigation of the form of manners and the substance of real virtue, as well as the complex play between interior life and public roles. The two chapters of my argument pose a contradiction. In Sense and Sensibility, Austen argues that self-expression in the epistolary form can be inauthentic, and therefore, manners are the most truthful form through which individuals can express their interior virtue. Conversely, in Mansfield Park, Austen argues that due to the performative quality of social intercourse, people’s manners can be deceitful exhibitions. In Austen’s ideal conception of manners as virtuous conduct, she unites the substance of a sentimental interior with the form of virtuous manners. Furthermore, through criticizing the epistolary form and theatrical performance, Austen asserts that the novel is the best medium for conveying the contradictions of human nature.

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