Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics

Tom Keymer. Oxford Univ., $18.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-19-886190-4
This meticulous treatise from Keymer (Poetics of the Pillory), an English professor at the University of Toronto, provides an effective overview of Jane Austen’s life and work. He begins by situating the reader in the physical world Austen inhabited, describing in detail the Elizabethan mansion where she stayed as a guest of her wealthy brother and the “snug little cottage” where she lived with her mother and sister and produced most of her writing. He then looks at the parodic, irreverent, and sometimes off-color writings she produced for her family’s amusement as a teenager, which are now viewed as evidence of her “disruptive instincts.” From here, Austen’s six published novels are dealt with in terms of major themes and relevant historical background—for Emma, he homes in on Austen’s concern with England’s “moral health and social wellbeing” in the decadent Regency era, and on the irony that she was compelled to dedicate the book to the man she held responsible for that decadence, the hard-living Prince Regent. Throughout, Keymer draws on Virginia Woolf’s views on Austen, whom the later novelist deemed the “forerunner of Henry James and of Proust,” particularly in relation to Austen’s final published work, Persuasion, whose protagonist Woolf saw as the “heroine with whom Austen most personally identified.” Janeites of all stripes should take note of this critically robust account. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 05/04/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-0-19-260648-8
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