|Date(s):||1814 (adaptations: 1983, 1999, 2007)|
|Medium:||novel, television, film|
|Country of Origin:||England|
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Mansfield Park is a rarelit fandom based on the novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1814. Mansfield Park fights with Northanger Abbey for the title of Austen's least appreciated novel, yet inspires some of the Austenworld's most interesting and varied fanfiction.
Mansfield Park has been described as Pride and Prejudice with Anne de Bourgh as the heroine. The most vibrant characters are Mary and Henry Crawford, who function as the villains. Mrs Norris, perhaps the nastiest character in the whole of Austen, is a work of genius (and the inspiration for Filch's cat). On the other hand, Edmund Bertram is Austen's least colourful hero, while shy, moralistic and physically frail Fanny Price can be difficult for modern fans to empathise with.
There have been three adaptations. A 1983 miniseries is no longer well known. A 1999 film, directed by Patricia Rozema, starred Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller and James Purefoy. Not particularly faithful to the novel, it drew elements from Austen's life and juvenilia, and foregrounded f/f elements. A 2007 television film starred Billie Piper, and is even less faithful to the original. Neither of the recent adaptations include a Fanny recognisable from the novel.
Mansfield Park has the dubious distinction of being disliked by more of Jane Austen's fans than any of her other novels, even to the point of spawning "Fanny Wars" in internet discussion forums. Its themes are very different from those of her other books, which can generally be simplified into one sentence, or even one phrase: ... The theme of Mansfield Park, on the other hand, can not be so easily described. Is it about ordination? Is it an allegory on Regency England? Is it about slavery? Is it about the education of children? Is it about the difference between appearances and reality? Is it about the results of breaking with society's morés? Any, or all of those themes can, and have been applied to Mansfield Park.
The major problem for most of the novel's detractors is the lead character, Fanny Price. She is shy, timid, lacking in self-confidence, physically weak, and seemingly—to some, annoyingly—always right. Austen's own mother called her "insipid", and many have used the word "priggish". She is certainly not like the lively and witty Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. But Mansfield Park also has many supporters, whose admiration and loyalty can be attributed to the depth and complexity of the themes in the book and to the main character—a young woman who is unlike most heroines found in literature.One thing is certain, this novel is not like Jane Austen's others. The girl-gets-boy plot of her other work is mostly absent here, and the heroine's success in finding love is treated briefly, quickly, and for many readers—especially those who expected something like the romantic Pride and Prejudice—unsatisfactorily. Only in the final chapter—essentially the epilogue—does Fanny get the love she deserves. The story and themes of Mansfield Park are, therefore, not as closely tied with the heroine's road to marital bliss as in Austen's other novels. (Ann Haker)
Mansfield Park is a love story albeit one without a romantic, wilful heroine or a dashing, sexy hero but it is a strong, passionate love story nonetheless. ... More than any other Austen novel Mansfield Park deals with internal, moral and spiritual issues. It is a celebration of stillness; of the still, small voice of the conscience.
The lightness, brightness and wit that makes Pride and Prejudice so popular is present in Mansfield Park but it is firmly rejected. Some of Austen's attractive characters such as Mr Knightley might find acceptance there but it is safe to say her most popular ones, Elizabeth Bennet, Henry Tilney, et al, would not. It is as if in Mansfield Park Jane Austen produced that “long chapter of sense” she apparently found lacking in Pride and Prejudice. (Margaret Smythe)
It’s the best of the Austen novels, IMO ... it’s enjoyable as well as admirable.
Of course, even more than all the others, it isn’t a love story. I think if you try to read it like that, you’re inevitably going to be disappointed. Mansfield Park is just — people. People being people. That’s what makes it so great, really. It all fits together and makes sense and is also a good story. And it’s almost painfully true to life. A girl like Fanny was never going to be a spirited young thing. And why should she be? It’s difficult and complex and dark, and yet I think far superior to Sense and Sensibility, where a similar tone is never satisfyingly resolved. (anghraine)
I truly struggle with this book, but have come to believe it's her best work. ...
Initially, when I first read MP years ago, it was the one Austen book that left me feeling odd -- largely because of the ambiguous ending, and Edmund is the only Austen hero who I cannot love very much, and so I worried for Fanny to be married to him. I could easily see it fairing just as well for her to have married Henry if her heart had been a little bit more open for it. These things left me feeling uncertain about the book. But upon further reflection and rereading, I decided I was okay with it. *g*Mary and Henry have almost become my favorite characters in MP, but I do not care to say that they're better than Fanny and Edmund or that I side with them more or think the novel should have ended differently at all. That's not my style. Just that they are infinitely more interesting because of their flaws. Austen loves to match like with like, which sometimes I chafe at, but mostly I see the wisdom of, especially in that world where crossing boundaries never really work. (hafital)
So, I like Mansfield Park a lot, and one of the reasons that I like it is that the love of a good woman is not enough to change a selfish man into a good one. It's such a subversion, and plenty of people have said that Fanny and Henry should end up together, but I love that Austen went with the unexpected, understated Fanny and Edmund instead. (Even if Edmund is a jackass at times.) (sixbeforelunch)
I used to consider this as the most boring of Jane Austen's works but now I see it in a new light. It has many beautiful scenes of human character the most interesting is the way in which she captures Fanny's sweet and humble personality. She is a very unlikely heroine caught between knowing what is right and wanting to please her relations, between not wanting to think evil of anyone but being the only one who sees the true evil in others. She is, as everyone finds, the firm rock in the midst of a busy sea of people with their highs and lows, virtues and vices. (Ladybug)
Although part of the broader Austen fandom and served by the same fannish infrastructure, Mansfield Park fandom is somewhat different from that of other novels. As none of the adaptations is particularly popular, picspam is less common than for other Austen. There is a lot of discussion, with popular topics including:
- the character of Fanny Price;
- the possibility of redemption for Henry and Mary Crawford;
- the slavery question;
- comparisons with Pride and Prejudice;
- the adaptations.
Disputes over the character of Fanny led to this warning for subscribers to AUSTEN-L:
Without a doubt, the most disputed topic on AUSTEN-L is: --
Miss Fanny PriceThe heroine of Mansfield Park has always been a controversial topic on AUSTEN-L, and we have had periodic "Fanny Price wars", which one should avoid exacerbating needlessly and gratuitously. Therefore if you have just subscribed, and are new to the list, then it would be advisable, before you post any standing questions or urgent reflections about Miss Price, to take into account the current state of any discussions of the topic on the list, and especially whether or not a "Fanny Price war" has just ended (in such a case, your posting may serve to fan the dying embers of argument into fresh flames, just when many list members were beginning to breathe a sigh of relief); to check on this, you can retrieve or search the list archives. Meanwhile, you should be careful about casually throwing around words such as the following in reference to Miss Price: `"insignificant", "moralizing prig", "feeble", "dull", or "nebbish" -- not because these are necessarily objectively wrong, but because on AUSTEN-L they are what the U.S. Supreme court has termed "fighting words".
As of July 2013, the Jane Austen Fanfiction Index lists just over 130 Mansfield Park stories (a significant underestimate of the total), the earliest dating from 1997. The Derbyshire Writers' Guild has the largest online collection, with around 110 stories. [See Austen fandom for a breakdown of fanfiction by novel.] The novel inspires rather different fanfiction than the other Austen novels, which almost entirely generate gen or het works in the canonical pairings. MP fandom is known for its noncanonical (Fuck with Canon) pairings, although the canonical Fanny/Edmund also has a following. The most common noncanonical pairings are Mary/Edmund and particularly Henry/Fanny; there is also occasional slash, femslash and incest. Rare pairings include Mary/Henry & Fanny/Tom in het, Henry/Edmund & Henry/William in slash, and Mary/Fanny & Mary/Maria in femslash. Redeemed-Henry is a popular trope.
A little fanfiction has been written about the novel's many minor characters. Occasional pre-stories have been published exploring the courtship of the three Ward sisters. Fanny's younger sister Susan gets a few romances, sometimes with Edmund's older brother Tom. The fate of the disgraced Bertram sister Maria Rushworth is told in some stories. Fanny's elder brother William, a naval lieutenant, features in a few works with more of an Age of Sail feel. He's often fanonically pictured under the command of Persuasion's Frederick Wentworth.
The fandom has benefited from Yuletide, which has generated many widely recommended stories over the years, exploring a range of noncanonical pairings. The challenge may well have helped to popularise these, although pre-Yuletide examples of Henry/Fanny exist.
There are multiple popular crossovers with Pride and Prejudice which pair MP characters with a wide range of P&P characters. Crossovers with other Austen novels are also common, and Fanny and the Crawfords pop up in crossovers with other sources. Modern AUs have also been written, but are much less frequent than for Pride and Prejudice.
- Bird of Paradise (link) by Jane Greensmith. Fanny character study, closer to canon than most fanfiction (2001)
- Regrets and Reminiscences by afrai. Earliest Yuletide story, perhaps the first MP slash (2004)
- Henry & William by Imogene Lovelace. Convincing take on the rare pairing of Henry with William Price (2007)
- Everingham by Katharine T. Hugely popular novella, which offers an optimistic version of Fanny/Henry with perhaps the definitive redeemed-Henry (2008)
- Love and Marriage by solvent90. Dark take on Fanny/Henry and Mary/Edmund (2008)
- As the Starling Said by Minerva McTabby. Best-known MP femslash (2008)
- Comprehension by shallowness. Short Henry/Fanny happy ending (2010)
- Symmetry by Ankaret. Crawford sibcest (2010)
- Mansfield End by Ione. Henry/Fanny AU novella (2013)
- By Degrees by scioscribe. Fanny/Mary AU novelette (2017)
- A More Prosperous Trial of the State by Victoria CL. Hugely long P&P crossover sequel, unusually centered on Mr Rushworth (2007)
- The Dancing Monkeys by Ione. Unusual crossover with Persuasion in which Crawford finds himself aboard the Laconia whose crew includes William Price (2009)
- i'll write you harmony in c by magneticwave. Modern AU novella, crossover with P&P, with Crawford paired with Mary Bennet (2012)
- Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice -- Structural parallels and oppositions. Repost of 1996 AUSTEN-L post by Bethany Grenald comparing the structure of the two novels; perhaps the origin of the MP is anti-P&P idea
- Mansfield Park Ate My Brain by Minerva McTabby. Wide-ranging review of the novel and its lit crit whilst writing As the Starling Said (2009)
- Rediscovering Mansfield Park by anghraine. On comparisons with Pride and Prejudice (2009)
- Mansfield Park and Slavery by Stultiloquentia (2019)
- AO3 -- 35 stories
- Bits of Ivory -- 19 stories
- Derbyshire Writers' Guild -- a little over 100 stories (via search page)
- ff.net -- 46 stories
- Yuletide -- 8 stories from Yuletides 2004–8
- Mansfield Park fan site by Margaret Smythe -- essays, links to fanfiction (offline)
- Mansfield Park blog by Chris Dornan
- Mansfield Park blog by miss sneyd
- Austen.com: Mansfield Park (accessed 2 July 2013)
- Mansfield Park fan site: Index (accessed 2 July 2013)
- anghraine: Rediscovering Mansfield Park (accessed 2 July 2013)
- mctabby: Yuletide fic, outed! Secret Fandom = Mansfield Park (Untitled comment thread) (accessed 2 July 2013)
- sixbeforelunch: snowflake challenge: day 9 (accessed 25 January 2014)
- Kellynch Hall: The Library (accessed 31 October 2015)
- Republic of Pemberley: The AUSTEN-L Mailing List (accessed 2 July 2013)