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What the Eye Cannot See: Interior Landscapes in Mansfield Park

From: The Eighteenth Century
Volume 54, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 169-181 | 10.1353/ecy.2013.0015



Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) indicates the wide-ranging significance that popular devices for perceptual illusion such as the camera obscura carry when it constructs one of its morally pregnant moments around the “ha-ha” at Mr. Rushworth’s estate. A sunken ditch that creates the illusion of a boundary-less perspective, the ha-ha functions as a model for the dark room—camera obscura--of the heroine’s mind. Like the ha-ha, Fanny’s mind neutralizes the boundaries that exclude her and allows her to inhabit the space that belongs to others. It is through this novel’s renderings of Fanny’s interior life through the narrative technique of free indirect discourse that we may witness the way fiction and landscape design came to function as related mediums for the invisible pains and pleasures of the imagination by the time the long eighteenth century came to a close.