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Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park (1814) has long been read as her most vocal endorsement of Edmund Burke’s ideal of slow and progressive improvement. While the failed theatrical performances, the hero’s disapproval of fashionable landscape gardening and the final reward of the heroine’s patient endurance all seem to justify this assumption, I argue that there is a pervasive sense of urgency and restlessness in the novel, one that Austen celebrates rather than condemns. In this article, I first examine how Austen draws upon the problem of abrupt closure to create her sentences, plots and characters. In so doing, she challenges the Burkean association of precipitate resolutions with disorder and destruction. Austen’s disagreement with Burke in fact goes further. If Burke maintains that rash decisions produce chaos and that slow development promises real benefit, Austen demonstrates an alternative appreciation of speed in her novel, where the demand for immediate action ushers in positive alteration and lazy acceptance of the status quo descends into irresponsible procrastination. Mansfield Park takes shape as Austen explores the virtue of hurry.

KEYWORDS: Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Edmund Burke, hurry, procrastination, closure

摘   要

珍‧奧斯汀的小說《曼斯菲爾莊園》常被認為是奧氏作品中思想最保守的一本書,因為書中對於激進革命(revolution)的批判與對漸進改變(progressive improvement)的嚮往和十八世紀末英國保守派思想家愛德蒙‧柏克對法國大革命的抨擊不謀而合。本文從匆促(hurry)此一觀點出發,嘗試在《曼斯菲爾莊園》一書中找出奧斯汀和柏克意見相左之處。柏克反對法國大革命的重要原因之一是他認為該革命來的太快太突然,柏克認為法國人民過於倉促的決定註定該國的政局改革以悲劇收場。然而奧斯汀巧妙地將柏克害怕的匆促編織到她的小說中,匆促此一概念不僅塑造了書中人物,掌控了情節安排,更滲透到句法結構當中。換言之,如果柏克認為匆促會帶來毀滅與混亂,奧斯汀釋放了匆促的創造潛力。此外,奧斯汀亦不同意柏克對於緩慢改變的理想與憧憬。《曼斯菲爾莊園》中對拖延(procrastination) 的負面呈現顯示了柏克所謂漸進的改變易淪為懶散的安於現狀。相反的,小說中對於當機立斷的果決行為往往有正面的評價。奧斯汀認為匆促還是有其必要與獨特的價值。《曼斯菲爾莊園》並非奧斯汀思想上最保守的一本小說,因為它對於匆促的頌讚是和保守柏克的想法背道而馳的。


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