From 1809 until just before her death, Jane Austen lived in a small, all-female household at Chawton, where reading aloud was the evening's entertainment and a crucial factor in the way Austen formed and modified her writing. This book looks in detail at Jane Austen's style. It discusses her characteristic abstract vocabulary, her adaptations of Johnsonian syntax and how she came to make her most important contribution to the technique of fiction, free indirect discourse. The book draws extensively on historical sources, especially the work of writers like Johnson, Hugh Blair and Thomas Sheridan, and analyses how Austen negotiated her path between the fundamentally masculine concerns of eighteenth-century prescriptivists and her own situation of a female writer reading her work aloud to a female audience.
1. Prescriptivism, perspicuity and the female reader and writer 2. Abstraction, synonymy and metaphor in Jane Austen's lexis 3. Reading aloud 4. Jane Austen and Johnsonian syntax 5. Experiments with speech and thought 6. Jane Austen and free indirect discourse: a developmental account 7. The Victorian (re)construction of Jane Austen