A Companion to Jane Austen Studies

A Companion to Jane Austen Studies

A Companion to Jane Austen Studies

A Companion to Jane Austen Studies

Synopsis

Jane Austen significantly shaped the development of the English novel, and her works continue to be read widely today. In addition, her writings have attracted considerable critical and scholarly attention. This reference is a guide to her works and the response to them. Each of her major works is the subject of a reader-response oriented essay and a separate bibliographical survey. In addition, separate chapters overview her letters, poems, and prayers. Thus, the companion offers a convenient summary of scholarship on Austen and fresh readings of her works.

Excerpt

A Companion to Jane Austen Studies thoroughly examines the entire body of Jane Austen's works in two distinct manners: The first of the two chapters devoted to each work is an original critical essay summing up past reactions and then reexamining the text in the light of a current reader-oriented critical stance reflecting some aspect of the general heading Jane Austen and Her Readers. This overall topic allows flexibility among critical approaches as well as unity throughout the book. Although these examinations are anything but uniform, there is a degree of similarity in the manner of presentation. The second of the two chapters dedicated to each of Austen's major novels or a particular type of her writing is a bibliographic essay chronologically describing criticism from initial responses just after the work's first publication to current literary analyses. For certain types of Austen's writing, such as prayers, verses, and letters, previous criticism is so limited that a separate bibliographical essay seemed unnecessary; in such cases, any available articles are clearly mentioned within the critical chapter.

Once one reviews the bulk of previous Austen criticism, then our particular choice -- to privilege reader-oriented theories in each of the critical chapters of this reference text -- seems understandable and beneficial. For continuity, both within this work and within the larger community of Austenian analysis, it is reader-response criticism that best lends itself to the texts examined. In criticism, historical conceptualism is impossible to remove, and in Austen's work the social mannerisms of particular classes within a certain time frame are highlighted, so we have sought to embrace this aspect of her writing. Further, Austen's astute, subtle layering of perceptions -- the subjective responses of her characters and the intersubjectivity reflected in the rhetorical strategies of the author and her characters -- seems based on assumptions of a reader's implicit . . .

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