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Essay in Judgment: Reading for Aesthetics in Mansfield Park

Essay in Judgment: Reading for Aesthetics in Mansfield Park

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Title: Essay in Judgment: Reading for Aesthetics in Mansfield Park
Author: Goldberg, Bessie Rovainen
Abstract: My dissertation demonstrates how Mansfield Park, which contains philosophically compelling claims about judgment generally and aesthetic judgment specifically, makes these claims through a reading experience that is itself an exercise in aesthetic judgment. Although this experience could be had by any actual reader of the novel, the experience of every actual reader depends upon her willingness to measure the exercise of her own faculty of judgment against that of the self-reflective, aesthetically disinterested, yet emotionally engaged reader whom the novel itself hypothesizes. With this hypothesized reader, I argue, the novel encourages readers to realize this ideal of aesthetic judgment while also explaining the various ways they might fall short. This hypothesized reader, I argue further, strives to follow a demand similar to Mikhail Bakhtins demand in Art and Answerability for each individual to make art and life answerable to one another.
Mansfield Park challenges readers to make art and life answerable primarily through a double plot structure; narrative techniques that complicate the distance between characters and readers; and the portrayal of the characters various failures of judgment. I employ methods of rhetorical narratology in my analysis of the novel to highlight the specifically literary ways it contributes to questions of philosophical aesthetics. This approach also accounts for the extent and types of disagreements about the novel in the critical literature about it. Within the general structure of a marriage comedy, Mansfield Park tells another story that challenges the expectations raised by that structure: the story of Fannys complicated perspective on Mansfield Park as both she and it change. I call this story the novels position plot. By complicating readers expectations for and judgments of the characters, the novel challenges readers to consider the extent to which their judgments of the characters and of the novel should be grounded in their expectations for a marriage comedy and the extent to which they should be informed by the novels portrayal of how ones position affects ones judgment. The novel manipulates readers expectations as well as their distance from the characters in clarifying the limits and possibilities of both disinterested and aesthetic judgment.
Subject: Philosophy
Keywords: Mansfield Park
Jane Austen
Philosophy of literature
Marriage plot
Realism and idealism
Aesthetic distance
Narrative closure
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/35530
Supervisor: Clark, Matthew C.
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Humanities
Exam date: 2018-07-05
Publish on: 2018-11-21

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