Mary Chan

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




David Blewett




This thesis explores looking and being looked at in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion using psychoanalytical and Foucauldian approaches. In the first approach, a male spectator exerts power over a female object by gazing at her with desire. In the second, a gaze of surveillance exerts power over and disciplines the subjects in its sight. Pride and Prejudice features several desiring gazes, particularly in ballroom and portrait scenes, where men not only gaze at women, but women actively labour to draw the desiring gaze. Moreover, women in the novel also gaze at men with desire. The novel also explores the limitations of the desiring gaze, class-based gazes, and the glance, which is based upon mutually-encoded knowledge rather than desire. Looking in Mansfield Park operates like Foucault's panoptic gaze, in which perpetual visibility creates self-disciplining subjects. One such subject is Fanny Price, who learns to suppress her desires under the watchtower-like gaze of her uncle. The instability of Mansfield Park and of the panoptic gaze is exposed by the pervading theme of spectatorship, which empowers a passive observer such as Fanny and allows her to get her heart's desire. In Emma, Foucault's theory of subjectivity is applied to gossip, which functions in conjunction with a community gaze to control the behaviour of Highbury's citizens. Emma undermines the authority of this gaze, as well as the gazes of characters such as Emma, Mr. Knightley, and the Eltons, favouring instead a gaze that makes distinctions based upon passion rather than self-interest. In Persuasion, the gaze draws attention to the heroine's body and her hidden inner self. Anne Elliot recognizes the limits of the community gaze of Bath, and can therefore express her inner feelings while still within its gaze. In Persuasion, the gaze is not resisted, but indifferently tolerated.

McMaster University Library

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