1st Edition

Jane Austen and Literary Theory

By Shawn Normandin Copyright 2021
    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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


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