Date of Award


Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Dr. Barry Levis

Second Advisor

Dr. Ed Cohen


Resembling the mercurial, black beauty mark used as an ornamental concealment of syphilitic sores, Jane Austen’s comedy of manners likewise acted as a superficial cosmetic device that concealed the ubiquity of venereal disease and prostitution hidden within. Through her characters, Austen used veiled narrative to highlight the reality of venereal disease and prostitution in eighteenth-century England. This thesis uncovers the hidden narrative in Jane Austen’s novels, as a means of better understanding the impact venereal disease and prostitution had on sexual issues with women and the female body during the eighteenth century. Beginning with an almost comic reference to venereal disease in “Emma” and ending with a tragic seduction in “Sense and Sensibility,” Austen successfully exposed the publicity of venereal disease and prostitution of eighteenth-century England and the severe effects it had on women in her society.