Revisiting Mansfield Park: The Critical and Literary Legacies of Edward W. Said’s essay “Jane Austen and Empire” in Culture and Imperialism (1993).
journal contributionposted on 31.07.2017, 16:09 by Corinne Fowler
Edward W. Said’s seminal essay “Jane Austen and Empire” exhorts critics to attend to novels’ “historical valances.” Yet advances in British imperial history show that Said underestimated the extent of country houses’ Caribbean and East India Company links. Historians of British imperial history have yet to reflect directly on the implications of these discoveries for the critical legacy of Said’s essay. Informed by twenty years of critical debate, I explain why research into country houses’ colonial connections warrants a definitive modification of Said’s view on Austen. Correspondingly, the article considers the literary legacy of Said’s essay on Austen in three texts: John Agard’s poem “Mansfield Park Revisited” (2006), Jo Baker’s novel Longbourn (2013), and Catherine Johnson’s novel The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo (2015). Agard, Baker, and Johnson are heirs of both Austen and Said, whose writings continue to shape postcolonial renderings of the English countryside.