Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Nicolle Jordan

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Emily Stanback

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Leah Parker

Committee Member 3 School



Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) has received a lot of modern critical attention specifically within the fields of feminist and postcolonial studies. There is, however, a notable lack of disability studies scholarship on this novel. The novel’s heroine, Fanny Price, suffers from chronic fatigue, and headaches. She has an exercise horse, and on occasion, she must take folk medicine. Since Austen does not give Fanny a diagnosis or refer to her as an invalid, reading Fanny’s body has been left open to critical interpretation. Using historical context and textual evidence, I establish Fanny as a disabled heroine with an unknown chronic illness. I argue that her disability inhibits her from fully being accepted as a member of the Bertram family, her adoptive kin. The Bertrams mistreat Fanny’s health and marginalize her based on her physical differences and social standing. Their actions signify their immorality. Fanny, who has been marginalized and ill-treated, finds herself frustrated by her lack of physical strength, but being disabled and marginalized gives her the space and time to think more about intellectual matters and morality. Just as Fanny becomes the respected moral exemplar at the end of the novel, the ableist Bertrams fade out of the novel entirely. Whether or not Austen was trying to critique ableist behaviors, the novel points to a connection between vice and the mistreatment of ill and infirm bodies.

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