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APSU graduate student places second in Jane Austen contest

November 5, 2002

An Austin Peay graduate student has placed second in the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Essay Contest.

Haley F. Fishburn of Hopkinsville, Ky., chose the concept of women's education in Jane Austen's “Mansfield Park” as her essay topic, focusing on the sexual education of men by women as portrayed in the enactment of a play by the characters within the novel.

“I thought it would either be totally embraced by the committee because it was so innovative, or completely tossed out because it was so scandalous,” said Fishburn.

Educating a man on anything, let alone sexuality, was unheard of in Jane Austen's 19th century England. Though women were not supposed to be sexual creatures, said Fishburn, they often became sexualized by society and in literature.

Fishburn, who will graduate in May with a master's degree in English, has been researching Austen's novels for a year and a half with the help of former assistant professor of English Dr. Ann Hawkins, and Dr. Susan Calovini, chair of languages and literature and associate professor of English. She recently adapted her essay for the contest into one of her thesis chapters.

Fishburn gave her first national Austen presentation this past spring at the College English Association's national conference. She is scheduled to present her work at three more conferences this spring at the Tennessee Philological Association, the College English Association and the British Women Writers Conference.

The Jane Austen Society of North America is comprised of professional scholars and dedicated, well-read amateurs who interpret the social, domestic and political themes rife within Jane Austen's novels.

Second prize for the contest included a free year subscription to JASNA, an announcement at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and a certificate of achievement.