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Born in Steventon, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775, Jane Austen was the seventh of eight children. She was the daughter of George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, who came from a prominent English family. Though her father had suffered financial hardship as a child, he was able to improve his place in life through education and ambition and married into the wealthy Leigh family before settling down as an Anglican rector and priest. Austen would grow up in a close-knit, large family of six brothers and one older sister. Her family’s support led not only to her education, but her success as a writer.
A new wave of academic interest in the author came in the 1960s and 1970s, when feminist critics turned their attention to Austen’s life and heroines. Critics like Margaret Kirkham reexamined Austen as a subversive force dedicated to the rights of women and placed her in a context of eighteenth-century feminist ideals. More recently critics like Moira Ferguson have examined Austen’s work through a postcolonial lens, looking at her use of female characters as a critique of imperial and colonial English society.
Critical essays on Jane Austen.
As for the practicalities of composition, Austen fully realized the conflict between sustained creativity and domestic responsibility. Admiring the productivity of the novelist Jane West, who managed a farm, Austen wrote to her sister on 8 September 1816, "Composition seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Joints of Mutton & doses of rhubarb." Nevertheless, in 1809 the promise of domestic security at Chawton seems to have renewed her interest in novel writing and her determination to publish. She began by returning to her earlier work. In April 1809 she asked Crosby to publish "Susan," which he had bought for ten pounds in 1803, or to return it to her. The publisher insisted on retaining his rights, and Austen let the matter drop. Eventually she reacquired the manuscript in 1816 but died before it was published, as , in 1817.
By the time she returned to novel writing at Chawton, Austen was an experienced novelist, if still an unpublished one, and had strong views on the art of fiction. She expressed these opinions only desultorily, however, in letters to her family. Austen read her niece Anna Austen's manuscript novel "Which Is the Heroine?" and offered detailed comments in letters of May or June, 10 August, 9 and 28 September, and December 1814. Her criticisms were directed to maintaining plausibility in the representation of manners and social conventions and to establishing a clear focus of social relations--"3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on." Cassandra Austen disliked "desultory novels," Jane Austen advised Anna, or ones with "too frequent a change from one set of people to another" and "circumstances" of "apparent consequence" that actually "lead to nothing." Such structure was in fact fairly common in the Burney type of novel that Jane Austen practiced, and she said that she herself allowed "much more Latitude" in this matter than Cassandra; at least she allowed it to other novelists, for her own novels have an economy of elements and tightness of construction that would have pleased Cassandra very much. Austen was also conscious of the way genres and styles were seen as either "masculine" or "feminine." For example, the novel was widely regarded as a "woman's" form of writing though certain kinds of novels were seen as more appropriate for male writers. To her nephew James Edward Austen, who was trying to write a "man's" novel, Jane Austen protested:
What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited Sketches, full of Variety and Glow?--How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour? (16 December 1816)Two years earlier, she had complained, tongue in cheek, against 's taking up novel writing after a career as best-selling Romantic poet, because he "should not be taking the bread out of other people's mouths." She also made fun of novelists who padded out their works with extraneous matter, such as sermons, travelogues, and literary criticism.
09.09.2017 · Critical Essays on Jane Austen [B
Ironically, Austen s death meant the beginning of her recognition as an author. Her obituaries identified her as the author of her popular novels, and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were both published after her death. While critics of the nineteenth century were unsure how to assess Austen s literary success, her reputation as an author and one of England’s most important literary voices grew steadily throughout the twentieth century.
Jane Austen was influenced by the books she read while under her father and brothers’ educational care. Though she read serious works by authors like Shakespeare, Joseph Addison, William Cowper, and Samuel Richardson, she was also heavily influenced by such authors as Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Frances Burney, and Maria Edgeworth. The influence of Austen’s own work on future generations of writers is almost impossible to estimate; her work affected writers from Henry James to contemporary writers like Helen Fielding.
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Southam critical essays on jane austen - …
Though Austen and her beloved sister Cassandra had little in the way of formal education, they grew up in a house where learning was valued. They attended school briefly but had to leave because their father could not afford to continue their studies. Instead, they studied at home under the supervision of their father and brothers. Austen was an enthusiastic reader with access to classics by William Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, David Hume, Ben Johnson, Daniel Defoe, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Such a challenging reading list was considered highly ambitious, even inappropriate, for a young lady of Jane Austen’s time. Though she also studied sewing, music, and drawing (accomplishments expected of a young lady of her class), she developed a lifelong love of reading and began writing at a young age.
Critical Essays on Jane Austen by B.C. Southam — …
At the same time, many social critics complained that "literature of the day" contributed to what it attacked--that it was part of the very "fashion system" it condemned. "Fashionable novels," "indecent plays," and "sentimental" writing of various kinds were condemned for spreading decadent upper-class values and practices to eager middle-class--and especially female--readers. The Austen family kept up with "literature of the day" and were aware of its important and controversial place in civic life. Some of the Austens were even willing to contribute to this literature. James and Henry Austen had literary tastes, and at Oxford University they published a literary magazine called in 1789-1790. In genteelly satirical style it promotes the professionalization of culture, attacks decadent court culture and emulation of it by the middle classes, and criticizes the fashionable literature of Sensibility as a form of aristocratic culture in disguise. Yet also advances thoroughly Tory, loyalist politics and defends the established Church. These themes, not unusual for the time, illustrate the way interconnections of politics, religion, and culture were taken for granted. Austen herself probably contributed an ironic letter to the editors from "Sophia Sentiment," purporting to complain about the magazine's neglect of feminine literary interests.
Southam critical essays on jane austen | Rodolfo Hidalgo
The education of Austen and her sister was not nearly as thorough and systematic as that offered their brothers. While the men would have to prepare for a profession and therefore spend their formative years accumulating intellectual and moral capital for the future, the only career open to women of the Austens' class was that of wife and mother. The sisters were prepared accordingly with some training in "accomplishments," that is, "elegant" skills such as music, drawing, dancing, and comportment. Too close emotionally to be separated for schooling, despite their difference in age, the sisters were taken to study with Ann Cooper Cawley, the widow of a head of an Oxford college, in 1783. She then took her charges and their cousin Jane Cooper to Southampton, where the three girls caught typhus and were taken home by their mothers; unfortunately Mrs. Austen's sister caught the fever and died. In 1784 the sisters were sent to the Abbey School in Reading, where intellectual training was little emphasized. In December 1786 the girls returned home, where they received the majority of whatever education they ever had and largely educated themselves. Jane Austen acquired a good knowledge of the literature and culture that were thought valuable at the time, she had a modest talent for music, and she loved dancing. She especially admired the writings of and the poetry of . With the rest of her family, she shared Johnson's Tory politics, practical piety, Anglican theology, fine sense of language in everyday as well as literary use, and commitment to emergent national cultural institutions. Cowper was the great poet of middle-class sensibility and gave epic scope and even heroic grandeur to middle-class life before the Romantic poets also attempted to do so.
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