Date of Award

Winter 12-16-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Flaherty

Second Advisor

Dr. Julian Knox

Third Advisor

Dr. Alex Blazer


This paper explores Jane Austen’s Emma as a response to stereotypes in 18th century novels and moral tales, and Autumn De Wildes’s Emma. from a feminist lens. Examining both of these works reveals that Emma was originally, and still is over 200 years later, transforming stereotypes in literature and film adaptations. The novel seems to be responding to a common stereotypical female villain found in many 18th century novels. In viewing Emma as a subversion of this stereotype, it is clear that Austen was responding to the sexist notions behind the character type, and writing a heroine more in line with the ideals of Mary Wollstonecraft. De Wilde’s Emma. transforms period adaptations through her unique take on Emma’s story; the plot is driven not by the romantic relationships, but rather by Emma's friendship with Harriet. In transitioning the focus on the relationship between the two women, showing the ups-and-downs of friendship and highlighting the growth of both throughout the story, the adaptation’s interpretation is female-focused. Adding to the feminist feel of the film is the adaptation’s portrayal of Mr Knightley played by Johnny Flynn. Many elements of the film contribute to Mr. Knightley’s feel as a character designed for the female gaze; his openness and vulnerability while falling in love and a romantic duet with Jane Fairfax all appeal to the audience. Through the focus on female friendship and a unique approach to the male lead, this adaptation interprets and tells the story of Emma in a new light.