This article takes up two famously disliked nineteenth-century novels—Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Charlotte Brontë's Villette—and argues that they are dissatisfying to readers because their protagonists fail to cohere as liberal subjects around a legible interior realm. Mansfield Park initially offers its east room as a spatial analogue for Fanny Price's interior, but it gradually revokes narrative access to the space in order to defer wholly to external status markers. Likewise, Villette's Lucy Snowe creates architectural constructions as a means of representing her inner realm to an outside world. However, each instance results in an impossible space that fails to establish the contours of Lucy's interior. The article reads the failures of subjectivation in the two novels in light of critical accounts that link the nineteenth-century novel to liberalism, a link that is often established through a shared emphasis on the interior. It thus examines what could come next once such a link is broken: a reevaluation of the default political perspective of the nineteenth-century novel but also a renewed understanding of the variety of subjective forms that liberalism is able to capture.

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