Jane Austen and Literary Theory  book cover
1st Edition

Jane Austen and Literary Theory

ISBN 9780367696443
Published March 12, 2021 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

Jane Austen was one of the most adventurous thinkers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but one would probably never guess that by reading her critics. Perhaps no canonical author in English literature has proven, until now, more resistant to theory. Tracing the political motives for this resistance, Jane Austen and Literary Theory proceeds to counteract it. The book’s detailed interpretations guide readers through some of the important intellectual achievements of Austen’s career—from the stunning teenage parodies "Evelyn" and "The History of England" to her most accomplished novels, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. While criticism has largely been content to describe the various ways Austen was a product of her time, Jane Austen and Literary Theory reveals how she anticipated the ideas of formidable literary thinkers of the twentieth century, especially Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man. Gift and exchange, speech and writing, symbol and allegory, stable irony and Romantic irony—these are just a few of the binary oppositions her dazzling texts deconstruct. Although her novels are major achievements of nineteenth-century realism, critics have hitherto underestimated their rhetorical cunning and their fascination with the materiality of language. Doing justice to Austen’s language requires critical methods as ruthless as her irony, and Jane Austen and Literary Theory supplies these methods. This book will enable both her devotees and her detractors to appreciate her genius in unusual ways.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Literary Theory and Austen Criticism

Deconstruction, Francophobia, Austen

Austen, Historicism, Theory

Austen and the Play of the Signifier

Chapter 1: "Evelyn" and the Impossibility of the Gift

"Evelyn" and Derridean Gift Theory

Literary Language and the Contradictions of the Gift

Austen, Derrida, and Capitalism

Chapter 2: Speech, Writing, and Allegory in Pride and Prejudice

Phonocentrism: From Derrida to the Eighteenth Century and Beyond

Phonocentrism in Pride and Prejudice

Writing’s Rehabilitation

Dancing about Arche-Writing

Chapter 3: Allegory, Symbol, and Irony in Mansfield Park

Austen, Coleridge, Burke

The Fall of Symbol and the Rise of Allegory

Between Allegory and Irony: The Last Chapter

Between Allegory and Symbol: Lovers’ Vows

Chapter 4: Emma’s Parergonal Realism

Kant, Derrida, and the Parergon

Emma’s "Schemes in the In-Betweens"

Parergonal Lack

Parergonal Verse / Parergonal Prose

Confronting Front Matter

Sex and Citationality

Emma’s Headers and Footers

Horrors of Finery

Framing "Nothing"

Chapter 5: Austen’s Unromantic Romantic Ironies

From Comic to (German) Romantic Irony

Theorizing Parabasis: Fichte, Schlegel, and de Man

Parabasis of Parabasis in Emma

Tracing Austen’s Irony: "The History of England"

Closing the Ironic Opening of Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Bennet: Being Ironic

Irony and the Sublime

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Shawn Normandin is an associate professor of English at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul.