Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Hilary Havens

Committee Members

Hilary Havens, Misty Anderson, Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud


There is a dearth of criticism that analyzes Jane Austen’s characters through the lens of neurodivergence — that is, an umbrella term for neurological difference, or behavior and cognitive processing that differs from what is “typical”. Although Austen has male characters that have been read as neurodivergent, this thesis will principally focus on two of Austen’s neurodivergent heroines: Marianne Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse. To support neurodivergent interpretations of these heroines, I will supplement close readings of Sense and Sensibility and Emma with social science and psychological literature. Marianne exhibits numerous traits that characterize Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Emma exhibits many traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Through their supportive relationships with loved ones and social development, Marianne and Emma acquire the skills to navigate the neurotypical society of late eighteenth-century England. Just as Austen novels act as pedagogical programs for women entering eighteenth-century English society, they specifically provide guidance for neurodivergent women like Marianne and Emma, and through characters like Elinor Dashwood and Mr. Knightley, they model supportive relationships between neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals.

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