Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers

By Kathy Mezei | Go to book overview
Save to active project

the look, the body, and the heroine of persuasion

A Feminist-Narratological View of Jane Austen

robyn warhol

Jane Austen's Persuasion ( 1818) is a novel constructed around what was, for its time, a radically unusual narrative premise: the love affair that should have culminated in a marriage to end a conventional romance has gone awry, and the heroine of the piece must begin again, eight and a half years later, on her quest for narrative closure. As Nancy Miller pointed out some time ago, the feminocentric text of Austen's period--the novel with a female protagonist--could reach closure in one of two ways: the heroine can get married, or she can die. Either resolution depends on a change of status for the heroine's body: it can cease being virginal or it can cease to live. For some feminist critics, Austen's apparent willingness to remain locked into this binary conception of the possibilities for heroines has been a problem. 1 Focusing on the heroine's body, however, I read Persuasion as a story of oppositions being called into question, as well as a story of lost love regained. Feminist readers in the 1990s may wish, like Anne Elliot, to reclaim an old attachment.

What happens when a feminist resists the powerful temptation to think of Jane Austen's heroines as persons and scrutinizes them as functions of texts instead? Feminist narratology, which is the study of narrative structures and strategies in the context of cultural constructions of gender, provides a method for reclaiming Jane Austen as a feminist novelist. It gives us the analytical tools to distinguish her "story" (what happens in a text) from her "discourse" (how the story is rendered in language). In Austen, the interplay between story, in which the independent heroine must, as some critics have it, "swindle into a wife," and discourse, through


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 286

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?