Sacred and Profane Love Episode 13: Jane Austen on the Virtues of Social Life


Download Episode 13: Jane Austen on the Virtues of Social Life


In episode 13 of Sacred & Profane Love, “Jane Austen on the Virtues of Social Life, I speak with professor Karen Stohr of Georgetown University about how Austen brings into relief the social dimensions of virtue in her novels. We discuss the importance of social roles and environments for the exercise and development of virtue, and how friendship and family life are the best contexts in which virtue can be fostered and strengthened.  I hope you enjoy our conversation!


Karen Stohr is the Ryan Family Term Associate Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy Senior Research Scholar at Georgetown University, and has an appointment at The Kennedy Institute of Ethics. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina, and her B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.  She has published widely within virtue ethics, and has a book forthcoming from Oxford, Minding the Gap: Moral Ideals and Moral Improvement. Dr. Stohr also has a passion for the work of Jane Austen.

Jennifer A. Frey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action, ethics, and law, with a particular focus on the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition.  She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology


Preview on iTunes

This podcast is a project of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and is made possible through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Content copyright the University of South Carolina and the University of Chicago.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

4 thoughts on “Sacred and Profane Love Episode 13: Jane Austen on the Virtues of Social Life

  1. I just discovered you, Dr. Frey, via the Pints With Aquinas interview you recently did. It was a wonderful episode. I’m very much looking forward to exploring your podcast on the intersection of philosophy, theology, and literature! Jane Austen, in particular, is a special preoccupation of mine — or was until recently. Having come to a sort of renewed interest in Catholicism this past year, I spent much of 2018 reading things I never looked into before, specifically philosophy and theology, which has left me short of time for fiction and my usual (annual) re-reading of Austen’s oeuvre, but I have to say, revisiting her now (with a decidedly Catholic lens) has made me a little more impatient with her (her heroines?) than I was before. I’m not sure I can fully articulate why yet. I’ll have to do some more thinking on it, maybe develop a thesis…


  2. Thanks for the positive feedback! I too have struggled with Jane Austen, but Karen Stohr (my guest for that episode) convinced me to go back and see all that I’ve missed. I hope the episode helps you find the value in her work too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! I have now finished listening to the episode, and it has reminded me of all the reasons I love JA. So thank you for that. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I didn’t already value her work. I’ve actually been a serious, dedicated reader of her for over 30 years. It’s just this past year, I’ve sort of been indulging in a little Catholic fandom (I’m a cradle Catholic but recently discovered some of the gaps in my education concerning this faith I was born into). So maybe that focus made me a little irritated with Elizabeth Bennet the last time I picked up P&P. I do love the character, don’t get me wrong, but the “truth universally acknowledged” by most Janeites of her perfection — precisely before her self-awakening and conversion about 3/4 of the way through the novel — is what kind of irritates me, I guess, because it feels like a post-modern secularism that is invested in re-writing not only the character’s motivations but Austen’s as well. Sorry this is so long-winded! It is a topic dear to my heart…

    A comment about the episode before I sign off though: I was intrigued that Dr. Stohr (who I think I am becoming a fangirl of, after this — and you too! — I’m going to seek out her book On Manners!) zoned in on the Harvilles when she talked of the model of married life in Persuasion. To my mind, it’s Admiral and Mrs. Croft who are the exemplars of the model husband and wife relationship in that novel, although they are childless. Interestingly, when Dr. Stohr talked about moral spaces, I thought of how Kellynch could be viewed as that place that was suffering from an emptiness of morality until the Elliots are forced to quit it and the Crofts transform it by their presence when they come to lease it. Anyway, I hope you do find time and inclination to revisit Austen armed some of Dr. Stohr’s insights about getting past the trivial veneer into the deeper human truths waiting beneath the surface. I’m curious what you’ve tried to read before and what you think you might start with now? I bet, like Dr. Stohr, you’d like Mansfield Park. It’s not the most commercially popular, but (and probably because) it is the most overtly dedicated to addressing a sort of moral philosophy, I think. Enjoy!


  4. yes, I definitely need to find the time to read Mansfield Park! And I’ll think about what you say about the Crofts too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the episode!


Comments are closed.