Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Kristina Deffenbacher


The nineteenth century left lasting impacts on our contemporary world, from political and economic developments to social and philosophical ones, and this extends to literature in the development of the novel as a major form. Jane Austen and George Eliot played integral roles in this maturation of the novel, as well as what Elizabeth Sabiston calls “the emerging female text and voice,” and thus both they and their art form merit continued reading and discussion (3). Novels are tools of social norms and revolution, and in the nineteenth century functioned as tools of the author in teaching their morals, worldviews, and philosophical perspectives to readers. Informed by feminist and narratological perspectives as well as by close readings and cultural and philosophical contexts, this project undertakes a sociocultural study of how fiction conveys ways of understanding and interacting with the world. Specifically, this project examines how in these texts, judgment, assumption, and expectation, of and from self and others, lead to better understanding and knowledge of others, self, and the world. I look at the ways Austen and Eliot deal with nineteenth century issues, such as tensions between society and the individual and questions of epistemology and morality, and how they reflect a shift across the century from a highly prescriptive society to a more flexible one that relies less on predetermined position to determine worth and morality. Both authors value similar social actions, but they have different perspectives on the reasons for their characters' successes in meeting moral standards or failures to live up to them. Ultimately, this project views literature as a reflection of society which allows us to experience and understand others in ways that we cannot always in the real world.








Departmental Honors Projects