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They Blush Because They Understand: The Performative Power of Women's Humor and Embarrassment in Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma
Lingo, Sarah Katherine
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In this project, I analyze women's humor in three of Jane Austen's novels: Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. Using speech-act theory, I specifically examine Elizabeth's, Emma's, and Mary's utterances to demonstrate that in order for humorous utterances to be subversive, they must challenge societal or patriarchal constructs (religion, misogynist men, marriage, the feminine ideal) and do so artfully. An indirect speech act--a play on words, an insult, even a laugh--is often far more effective than a more direct one, especially when wielded by characters for whom a direct antagonistic speech act would have severe social consequences. When those socially-sanctioned and highly-regulated speech acts--marriages, wills, introductions, invitations, letters, titles--are less accessible or less beneficial to women, only indirect speech acts remain a viable option.
- Masters Theses