This book illuminates Jane Austen’s exploration of masculinity through the courtship romance genre in the socially, politically and culturally turbulent Romantic era. Austen scrutinises, satirises, censures and ultimately rewrites dominant modes of masculinity through the courtship romance plot between her heroines and male protagonists. This book reveals that Austen pioneers and celebrates a new vision of masculinity that could complement the Romantic desire for agency, individualism and selfhood embodied in her heroines. Rewriting desirable masculinity as an internalised, psychologically complex and authentic gender identity – a model of manhood that drives the ongoing appeal and cultural power of her men in the twenty-first century – Austen explores both the challenges and the opportunities for male selfhood, romantic love and feminine agency.
Jane Austen’s Men is among the first full-length works to explore Austen's male protagonists as textual constructions of masculinity. Sarah Ailwood reveals the depth of Austen's engagement with her predecessors and contemporaries, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane West and Jane Porter, on critical questions of masculinity and its relationship to femininity and narrative form. This book illuminates in new ways Jane Austen’s ambitions for the novel, and the political power of the courtship romance genre in the Romantic era.
Sarah Ailwood is Assistant Professor at the University of Canberra. She completed her PhD on Jane Austen and masculinity at the University of Wollongong, and has published essays and articles on Austen’s men. She co-edited Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence (EUP, 2015) and has wide research interests in women’s writing, particularly historical and contemporary life narrative and legal experience.
"In Jane Austen's Men: Rewriting Masculinity for the Romantic Era, Sarah Ailwood demolishes once and for all the notion that Jane Austen did not understand men. In this engaging, deeply perceptive book, she argues that Austen undertook the inherently risky task of re-creating a psychologically complex masculinity to complement women's individual agency and subjectivity. Companionate marriage, in Austen's reworking of the romantic courtship novel, looks both attractive and startlingly modern."
--Jocelyn Harris, Professor Emerita, University of Otago.