A Companion to Jane Austen

A Companion to Jane Austen

A Companion to Jane Austen

A Companion to Jane Austen

Synopsis

Reflecting the dynamic and expansive nature of Austen studies, A Companion to Jane Austen provides 42 essays from a distinguished team of literary scholars that examine the full breadth of the English novelist's works and career.
  • Provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date array of Austen scholarship
  • Functions both as a scholarly reference and as a survey of the most innovative speculative developments in the field of Austen studies
  • Engages at length with changing contexts and cultures of reception from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries

Excerpt

Writing at the outset of the twentieth century, Henry James famously complained that the public’s enthusiasm for Jane Austen was being abetted by a “body of publishers, editors, [and] illustrators” who find “their ‘dear,’ our dear, everybody’s dear, Jane so infinitely to their material purpose.” To be sure, James acknowledged that Austen would not be so “saleable if we had not more or less … lost our hearts to her” in the first place, but he censured the “special bookselling spirit” which, with all its “eager, active interfering force” whips up a “stiff breeze” and drives the waters of reputation above their natural levels. Writing at the outset of the twenty-first century, we can say with certainty that the waters of Austenian study, appreciation, and marketing have, far from subsiding, continued their steady rise, flooding beyond national and media boundaries. Shaped to some extent by the transformative energies of the global Austen surge of the mid 1990s – for we cannot really speak of revival in connection with a figure whose vitality has never abated – Austen study today is a diverse, expansive, excitable, critical life-form, with feelers that reach out and across disciplines. For popular audiences across the world, the plethora of cinematic adaptations and spin-offs of Austen’s novels and life – and all the reviews and commentary they have in turn generated – have produced new modes of transmission and more diverse audiences. But Austen criticism has been fuelled by the momentum of that surge. This Companion seeks not only to describe the present state of Austen studies but also to explore how it both informs and is informed by changes and innovations within the broader field of literary and cultural studies.

We might characterize the fascination with Austen today as a form of reenchantment, a rediscovery of particular Austenian pleasures and of what Sonia Hofkosh, in her essay on Northanger Abbey and Austen’s work more generally, refers to as Austen’s “uses of enchantment.” This reenchantment has occurred at least to some extent as an effect of the cinematic enchantment with Austen, the delivery of Austen in the form of a new repertoire of captivating visual effects. But it is not beholden to it. For despite truisms that abound about Austen having been rescued from print and delivered to . . .

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