Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

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Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

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She contests that the timing of the publication of Austen’s works have changed the way the novels were read, the arguments that Austen was sneaking in commentaries on slavery and enclosure are weak- filled with much historical context but little substance from Austen’s novels other than character names, setting references and short lines of dialogue.

Fortunately, Kelly does not try to undermine the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth, but rather draws attention to the underlying prejudices of the novel which are far more revolutionary than a modern audience appreciates. A very careful reader in Austen’s own day might have picked up on many of the hints Kelly highlights, but it’s pretty astonishing that a twenty-first-century reader could do so. She wrote against the conventions and mocked the bourgeoisie with their fixations on money, status and position. They saw her books as instructional, beneficial even, for women readers of the age, for those who “needed” to learn to behave. Jane's (sic) novels, in truth, (rhetorical device) are as revolutionary, at their heart, (if you, like me, are clever enough to be able to see it.I enjoyed this but agree with those reviewers who feel that it is (1) overly assertive about what Austen thought and felt - something which it criticises fairly fiercely in other authors -, that (2) it draws some fairly tenuous connections (just one example; Edward Ferrars and the scissors is far too heavily relied upon for what is ultimately a fairly weak Freudian interpretation) and (3) it could have done without the fictitious/imaginary sections.

The “idealised picture” chosen by the bank looks “far less grumpy” than the “unfinished sketch it’s based on”. Kelly offers a salutary argument for reading Austen’s novels with the serious attentiveness they invite and deserve. These are issues percolating through the book and these are factors that must be considered, of course: class, gender, politics. It’s difficult to stand out from the crowd when writing about such an influential figure, but Helena Kelly has certainly achieved that with this smart, knowing, perceptive book.Despite what Kelly suggests, I retain my right to believe that Edward and Eleanor could live happily ever after. There are many more comments I could make on this book which, in my opinion, was a mixed bag of fascinating insights and unhelpful suggestions that I could have done without. Kelly's work putting Austen's work into more of a historical and political context than is often found. The book takes place in a brief moment of peace with France, just before Napoleon escapes from Elba.

In Pride and Prejudice, that sparkling and delightful novel so beloved today, Kelly finds a "revolutionary fairy tale, a fantasy of how, with reform, with radical thinking, society can be safely remodeled" without the revolution that had wracked France.The Northanger Abbey chapter was insightful about the use of the Gothic within that text, if I ever get around to actually reading the Mysteries of Udolpho, I intend to read both NA and the chapter here again. There are some interesting close readings here, but a lot of her readings are stretching way too far with not enough evidence to back them up -- and given the paucity of notes and titles in the bibliography, this is not really a surprise. The book is split up into sections following each of her published novels, as well as one concerning her life, and her death. The relative impoverishment of some in Highbury is just glimpsed at the corners of Emma’s occluded vision.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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