Constancy and the Ethics of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park by Joyce Kerr Tarpley
Call Number: PR4034.M33 T37 2010
Publication Date: 2010-10-25
What grounds our ethical choices in a modern world of competing versions of virtue and conflicting ideas of law? Constancy, Jane Austen''s cardinal virtue, provides a foundation for making such choices. Constancy and the Ethics of Jane Austen''s Mansfield Park offers a rigorous philosophical examination of the novel, the first book-length, close reading to do so. Joyce Kerr Tarpley begins with an introduction that provides a background for reading Austen''s ethics, noting her genius for synthesis, in particular her synthesis of ethical contexts. The book brings together classical thinkers (Plato and Aristotle) with Christian (Augustine, Aquinas, and Dante), and modern (Shaftesbury, Locke, and Adam Smith). While acknowledging these influences, Tarpley argues that constancy relies primarily on a Christian philosophical framework. She defines constancy and delineates its role in guiding ethical thinking. Relying on textual evidence from the novel and focusing on Austen''s heroine, Fanny Price, the first half of the book contrasts the Christian liberal education that fosters the development and practice of constancy with its secular utilitarian counterpart, which impedes its development and practice. The second half considers the two most important subjects for Christian liberal learning, beauty and truth. Tarpley delineates the dual role of constancy -- moral and intellectual -- to guide the heart''s pursuit of beauty and the mind''s pursuit of truth. Her argument contributes to the ongoing debate on the philosophy of literature, religion, ethics, and emotion.