Clutching My Pearls is about Jane Austen and the times she lived in. Those who think we should speak of the past only to condemn it, but still want to rescue Jane Austen from the dustbin of history, have a bit of a dilemma on their hands. Click here for the first in the series.
Where I'm from, "fanny" means a derriere, as in "get your little fanny over here." But I've read that it's also a slang term for lady parts. I wanted to confirm this, then I got embarrassed when I thought about my Google search history, so I stopped. Then I found a useful book called The Lover's Tongue, which says "fanny" “emerged around 1928, and is now a familiar, albeit quaint, euphemism for the buttocks. The word fanny might have been inspired by John Cleland’s 1749 erotic novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, the protagonist of which, Fanny Hill, is frequently exposing her bottom.”
Author Mark Morton adds: "Fanny has also been used to refer to the female genitals which might make a connection to Fanny Hill even more feasible.” So there you go.
Anyway, there are many slang names for lady parts, that’s for sure. And the derriere is undeniably an important part of female charms and is particularly in vogue today, it seems.
The question is, when we think of Fanny Price, are we supposed to think about lady parts? And when we think about lady parts, are supposed to think about prostitutes? And when we think of prostitutes, are we supposed to reflect that, after all, marriage is pretty much like prostitution? And are we intended to go on and realize that Mansfield Park "rigorously links prostitution to courtship and courtship to corruption in the culture at large"? Because, look at how Fanny's brother William got promoted to lieutenant...
In Austen's Unbecoming Conjunctions, Subversive Laughter, Embodied History, scholar Jillian Heydt-Stevenson argues Austen intended for her readers to follow this ramshackle train of thought...