A Jane Austen Encyclopedia

A Jane Austen Encyclopedia

A Jane Austen Encyclopedia

A Jane Austen Encyclopedia

Synopsis

Perhaps the first modern novelist, Jane Austen (1775-1817) has left an indelible mark on the world of letters. She is best known as the author of penetrating studies of domestic life and manners, and her novels such as Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Mansfield Park (1814) continue to be read and appreciated today. Yet Austen also wrote numerous other pieces and a substantial body of letters. While her novels have received large amounts of critical attention, scholars have also increasingly studied her other writings, and Austen scholarship continues to grow each year. This reference book is an accurate, comprehensive, and detailed guide to her life and career.

A chronology outlines the principal events in her life and places her within larger literary and historical contexts. The several hundred alphabetically arranged entries that follow identify characters and family members, discuss works and themes, and synthesize the large body of criticism that has grown around her works. Every one of her texts, including all of her minor writings, has a separate entry, as have most of her fictional characters. Entries for individual works typically provide details of composition and publication, a plot summary and critical commentary, a list of characters, and bibliographical references. The volume closes with an extensive bibliography of works by and about her.

Excerpt

This book aims to present the known facts about Jane Austen's life and works in as uncluttered and straightforward a manner as possible, without duplicating the structures, approaches, and assessments of previous books of a similar sort (see, e.g., Apperson 1932, Copeland and McMaster 1997, Grey 1986, Halperin and Kunert 1976, Hardwick 1973, Leeming 1974, Pinion 1973). It undoubtedly has many features in common with earlier reference guides on Austen, and it certainly owes a scholarly debt to several of them, but in almost every instance of similarity there are key differences that I believe make this work a worthwhile addition to what is, admittedly, already a fairly crowded market. This is not the place to point out every one of these differences, but one or two examples may help to justify the appearance of yet another book on Austen to the skeptical observer.

To begin at the end, as it were, very few (if any) other general reference works contain the sort of comprehensive and up-to-date bibliographies presented here; and for many scholars, this alone would justify the publication of this book. Similarly, although there are chronologies of Austen's life and works in abundance, very few of them provide more than a skeleton outline of the life, and none of them systematically trace the steps and stages in the composition and publication of all her writings. My chronology—for the first time, I believe—does this, while providing a full account of the life at the same time. The chronology presented by Deirdre Le Faye (1989) is an outstanding exception to the general rule, and I acknowledge an important debt to her meticulous biographical research in the construction of my own chronology; but even Le Faye (because she is primarily concerned with biographical matters) does not deal systematically with all the writings in her chronology, though she does do so discursively in the course of the rest of her book. There have also, previously, been several dictionary-style guides to the plots and characters of Austen's novels, and these have generally been of a very high standard. But, again, few of . . .

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