The Postcolonial Jane Austen

The Postcolonial Jane Austen

The Postcolonial Jane Austen

The Postcolonial Jane Austen

Synopsis

This volume offers a unique contribution to both postcolonial studies and Austen scholarship by *examining the texts to illumine nineteenth century attitudes to colonialism and the expanding Empire *revealing a new range of interpretations of Austen's work, each shaped by the critic's particular context *exploring the ways in which the study of Austen's novels raises fresh issues for post-colonial criticism. Bringing together work by highly-respected critics from four continents and a range of disciplines, this newly paperbacked volume allows sometimes surprising and always fascinating new insights into some of the most frequently studied - and best loved - novels in the English language.

Excerpt

This collection of essays on Jane Austen grows out of and exemplifies recent developments specifically in Austen criticism, but also in the institution of English literary studies as such, and more generally in contemporary cultural studies. The focus of the collection is on Austen viewed in light of postcolonial theory, as well as, reciprocally, upon postcolonial theory viewed in light of a certain 'Austen'. But first a preliminary note here about this project - about its conditions of possibility, and about its participants, intended to clarify 'why us?', in relation to Austen - equally, a question of 'why Austen?'

We, the editors of this volume, have worked so far largely in that growing and amorphous territory of contemporary 'cultural studies' that includes gender, postcolonial and regional (or 'area') studies. Yet our early training, up to and including graduate and doctoral studies, and even some first publications, were in British literary studies conventionally defined. Jane Austen, placed at the juncture of our different backgrounds in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literatures of Britain, was of interest to us both as a woman writer appearing in a key period of European political and imperial history, 1790 to 1820, and as the subject of several significant and remarkably interesting feminist, Marxist and postcolonial critical texts in recent times. The resurgence of popular interest in her work, as testified by a number of films in the 1990s based on her novels, was also an intriguing development in the phenomenon of 'Austen'.

If the entry of an Indian and a Korean woman into English literary studies is a function of our historical situation (a history explored at greater length in some of the essays in this volume), then our drift away into other fields of work was also enabled by the recent hospitality of disciplinary 'English' to these cognate academic areas. Admittedly the volume began as something of a lark, as a response to the challenge of breaking into a field that is suspicious of both the credentials and the politics of non-native, non-English-speaking critics. The establishment of English literary studies offers us legitimacy more grudgingly than do the area studies, gender, or postcolonial studies where we know our place, so to speak. But more seriously, our decision to 'return' to English literary studies was impelled by the desire to make sense of our intellectual histories and our association.

Our trajectories of travel brought us as graduate students to the United States. Within this broad familiar narrative, there are, inevitably, significant differences

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