A Woman in Possession of the Theological Virtues Must Be in Want of Analysis: A Christian Virtue Ethic Approach to Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries

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Throughout the extensive criticism dedicated to Jane Austen and her contemporaries, one theme seems to be steadily misinterpreted: the theological virtues. For example, Cecilia Beverly from Frances Burney’s Cecilia, Jane Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fanny Price from Austen’s Mansfield Park, Helen Burns from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South all demonstrate one or more of the theological virtues, but no scholar seems to acknowledge this. In particular, the character of Jane Bennet, the case study for this thesis, makes the intentional choices to have faith, hope, and love, which Christian literary theory and virtue ethics reveal. The importance of female characters who practice the theological virtues in long nineteenth century British novels becomes apparent through employing Thomistic definitions of the virtues, analyzing Jane’s character, performing a stylistic investigation of her letters, and briefly examining Cecilia, Fanny, Helen, and Margaret.
Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in English
English Literature, Theology