In her re-examination of Jane Austen's Anglicanism, Laura Mooneyham White suggests that engaging with Austen's world in all its strangeness and remoteness reveals the novelist's intensely different presumptions about the cosmos and human nature. While Austen's readers often project postmodern and secular perspectives onto an Austen who reflects their own times and values, White argues that viewing Austen's Anglicanism through the lens of primary sources of the period, including the complex history of the Georgian church to which Austen was intimately connected all her life, provides a context for understanding the central conflict between Austen's malicious wit and her family's testimony to her Christian piety and kindness. White draws connections between Austen's experiences with the clergy, liturgy, doctrine, and religious readings and their fictional parallels in the novels; shows how orthodox Anglican concepts such as natural law and the Great Chain of Being resonate in Austen's work; and explores Austen's awareness of the moral problems of authorship relative to God as Creator. She concludes by surveying the ontological and moral gulf between the worldview of Emma and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, arguing that the evangelical earnestness of Austen's day had become a figure of mockery by the late nineteenth century.
Laura Mooneyham White is Professor of English at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, USA. Her scholarship focuses on the novels of Jane Austen and other works of nineteenth-century British literature.
Classified as ’Research Essential' by Baker & Taylor YBP Library Services A Yankee Book Peddler UK Core Title for 2011 'The place of religion in Jane Austen's life and fiction has become a subject of heated debate. Was she a pious spinster, or did she wear her faith lightly? Do her novels offer evidence of the strength of her faith or provide a refutation of it? Laura Mooneyham White's Jane Austen's Anglicanism persuasively argues that many of us have fundamentally misunderstood elements of the Church of England and Christian faith in Austen's era. This brilliant, learned book sets out to show us what we have missed, with clear, factual explanations and provocative interpretations on every page. It will have students and scholars alike reading Austen's work through new eyes.' Devoney Looser, University of Missouri, USA '... this scrupulously researched book should be required reading for any student of 18th-century British literature and, of course, Austen. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates and above.' Choice 'The book concludes with a brilliant coda that compares Emma with The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy in a different style. It is illuminating to contrast the pairs of lovers, the spinsters, the clergymen, and the wit of these great works...' Jane Austen Society of North America Newsletter ’White makes us aware of the creative tension between an author’s era and her genius, and for that we should be grateful. Well written and thoroughly researched, this book offers new insight into the religious beliefs that shaped Jane Austen. It is an important contribution to Austen scholarship.’ Journal of British Studies '... the sage critique and commentary in Jane Austen’s Anglicanism reveals the context and touchstones of faith that guided Austen’s writing, and enhances her genius.' The Wordsworth Circle 'White’s scholarship is not in doubt: her analysis of contemporary religious practice and teaching is compelling. Her state