Journal Article

JANE AUSTEN AND THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION: RENEWING THE DRIFTING CHURCH IN <i>MANSFIELD PARK</i>

Michael Giffin

in Literature and Theology

Volume 14, issue 1, pages 17-33
Published in print March 2000 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 2000 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/14.1.17
JANE AUSTEN AND THE ECONOMY OF SALVATION: RENEWING THE DRIFTING CHURCH IN MANSFIELD PARK

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One obstacle in literary criticism of texts written by our forbears is the wide gap in our understanding of the history, sociology, philosophy and theology of previous generations. Literary criticism in the twentieth century has been highly secular in character, and this has made it difficult for the academic critic to glimpse into the horizons of the ‘religious’ author and text. This is perhaps why, when critically reading nineteenth and twentieth century novels, often literary texts do not reveal the theological subtexts they might well contain, precisely because the reader—whether secular or ‘religious’—is ill-equipped or unable to recognise those subtexts. Bridging this gap between contemporary reader and ‘historical’ literary text is the most urgent task of Literature and Theology.

This thesis is demonstrated through a reading of Mansfield Park which questions several strongly-held beliefs prevailing in academic literary criticism. It suggests that in the novel there is a connecting threat of (fairly systematic) theological discourse which can only be accessed through the cultural context of Austen's theological world-view.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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