English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Brenda Ayres

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Literature, General


Adaptations, Emma, Fan Fiction, Heroine, Jane Austen, Personal Growth


Literature in English, British Isles


Jane Austen's novels continue to be popular in the twenty-first century because her heroines are both delightful and instructive; they can be viewed as role models of personal growth due to their honest self-examination and commitment to high moral standards. Chapter one establishes the patterns of personal growth that uniquely characterizes Austen's heroines in each of her six novels. Chapter two tests these conclusions by carefully examining the character of Emma Woodhouse. Though Emma is a unique heroine due to her wealth and social privileges, she follows the principles of personal growth possessed by Austen's other heroines. Chapter three further analyzes these conclusions by examining how Jane Fairfax can also be viewed as an Austen heroine because she too cultivates self-awareness and corrects her inner failings. In fact, several contemporary writers have recognized the heroic qualities in Jane Fairfax and have rewritten Emma by placing Jane as the heroine; three such adaptations are analyzed in chapter three. To further evaluate the characterization of the Austen heroine as realized by modern authors, chapter four examines three versions of Emma set in modern times to see if contemporary renditions of Austen's novels are consistent with the model of growth that Austen promotes. Though these contemporary adaptations are not always faithful to the underlying moral themes found in the original Austen novels, the mere existence of these adaptations affirms the influence that Austen has on the minds, hearts, imaginations, and moral education of twenty-first century writers and readers.