Forget the dashing hero; this grad student finds the prize in Jane Austen’s lesser man


Danielle Lucio (M.A English literature, ’13) won a national award for her essay on the groveling Mr. Collins in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Both fans and scholars of Jane Austen love to muse over the famous heroines and dashing suitors the novelist created in her literary classics. So who in the world would want to write an academic essay about that fawning Mr. Collins, the bumbling cousin who seeks Elizabeth Bennet’s hand in marriage in
Pride and Prejudice

Danielle Lucio (M.A English literature ’13) would and did. More important, a panel of Jane Austen scholars likes what she had to say. Her essay “Punctual to His Time: An Examination of Mr. Collins and Time in Jane Austen’s
Pride and Prejudice
,” won second prize in the graduate division of an essay contest sponsored by the
Jane Austen Society of North America.

“It’s very exciting for any literature student to win this, but especially for students who would like to pursue being published,” the Chapman University graduate student said.

Several Chapman undergraduates also received JASNA recognition for their essays. In the contest’s undergraduate category Conny Fasshauer ‘13, Atalia Lopez ’13 and Marina Shugrue ’15 each won honorable mention.

The students were all enrolled in the Jane Austen course taught last spring by Linda Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of English, who encouraged them to enter.

“Professor Hall was a huge inspiration,” Lucio says.

In addition to having her essay published on the JASNA site, Lucio receives a $500 scholarship and free attendance and hotel accommodations at the JASNA Annual General Meeting this September in Minneapolis.

The tiresome Mr. Collins as played by David Bamber in the BBC production of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." He was doing his literary part, says Lucio.

The tiresome Mr. Collins as played by David Bamber in the BBC production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” He was doing his literary part, says Lucio.

Lucio says she was inspired to write about Mr. Collins and his devotion to the rules of etiquette in the book’s time period after
Andrew Davies
, the screenwriter who adapted
Pride and Prejudice
for the BBC, visited Chapman in April to meet with several of Hall’s classes. Davies encouraged students to analyze all versions of Austen’s work, including film. As she revisited the BBC series, Lucio says Mr. Collins stood out afresh.

“I decided to do some more research on him. He was a very interesting character and I wanted to know a little bit more about what made him tick,” she says.

Mr. Collins is persnickety about rules and etiquette, two arenas in which both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet push back against societal expectations, Lucio writes. But Lucio suggests that Austen used him for the purposes of contrast.

So was poor Mr. Collins a literary lackey? Pretty much, Lucio says.

“She was making fun of her society, both the good and the bad,” she says. “But she was also making fun of him and saying that there are times when you should break the rules, that you that you should question society and that you should criticize the world around you to really understand your world.”

Dawn Bonker

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