Mansfield Park Comes to Life: Teaching and Staging Elizabeth Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows in an Austen Course

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This essay discusses how I incorporated readers theatre into a senior seminar on Jane Austen and her contemporaries. The article recounts how my students read Elizabeth Inchbald’s 1798 drama, Lovers’ Vows, and Austen’s 1814 novel, Mansfield Park, and then were inspired at the end of the seminar to take part in a readers theatre production of the play. In order to set up this pedagogical example, the essay addresses the theatrical episode of Mansfield Park, the controversies surrounding Lovers’ Vows, and the ways in which I edited the play and prepared students to create a “little theatre”—to quote Austen character, Tom Bertram—at my university and become their own version of The Mansfield Players. The essay concludes by explaining what students can learn about drama and the novel by partaking in such an exercise.

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ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts