Rent Mansfield Park
Is she queer?--Is she prudish?' These are not quotations from contenders in the brouhaha over Jane Austen's sexuality. They are questions the rakish Henry Crawford in 'Mansfield Park' asks as he wonders about the nerdiest of all heroines, Fanny Price. The erotic charm that makes other women in that novel yield one after another to Henry's desire fails to make a dent on this mousy and withdrawn girl...Henry Crawford's sense that Fanny is either queer or prudish also describes two contending traditions of Austenian reception that have prevailed since the mid-19th century...Those adhering to the elegaic tradition...believe Austen gives us a reassuringly orthodox world...where...the desires of gentlemen and ladies for each other are obviously complementary, mutually fulfilling, and above all inevitable...[In] another, anti-normative tradition...Austen has been suspected of sexual abnormality for a good long time...
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