Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


First Advisor

Judith Lewin

Second Advisor

Kara Doyle

Third Advisor

Suzanne Benack




Jane Asuten, Judith Butler, Gender Performance, Psychoanalysis


In this thesis, I take two complex works, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and read them together to gain a deeper understanding of both. My cutting-edge psychoanalytic approach to understanding Jane Austen provides a profound insight into the impact of socially-constructed expectations on performances of femininity. Butler’s work exposes interesting insights into the psychology and feminine identity of both Fanny Price and Mary Crawford while Austen’s work exposes limits in Butler’s theory of gender performativity. Although Butler claims that gender is a body’s constant performance, I add that there is a relationship between gender performance and the external forces that dictate its terms. Consequently, despite Mary being the more charming character in Austen’s novel, she struggles to maintain a stable sense of identity due to her over-eager adaptability to new environments and directions. On the contrary, Fanny, the heroine critics love to hate, has the more successful performance of femininity and is rewarded with marriage by the novel’s conclusion. Fanny is Austen’s true heroine as a result of her constancy in her identity performance despite issues of class and alternative directions. My analysis of Austen expands the parameters of Butler’s theory to illustrate the ability women have to reject attempts to change their feminine identity, allowing them to preserve distinct senses of self.