sexta-feira, 18 de outubro de 2013

Jane Austen - a guide to her greatest works



Jane Austen - a guide to her greatest works

 

Jane Austen is renowned for her wit, her lightness of touch, and the elegance of her prose style. There isn't a great deal of drama in her novels: people fall in and out of love; some of her heroines test our patience; and in the end there is usually a marriage. But the manner in which she orchestrates these events, and her shrewd insights into human frailties have made her an enduringly popular writer.


Pride and Prejudice (1813) has the famous opening line "It is a fact universally recognised that a man with a fortune must be in search a wife." It's a story of the empty-headed and garrulous Mrs Bennet, who has but one aim in life - to find a good match for each of her daughters. Her husband  is a mild-mannered and indolent man, much given to making witty cynicisms, and he refuses to take this vulgar prospect seriously.

The pride of the title belongs to its hero Mr Darcy, and the prejudice to heroine Elizabeth Bennet, who has lessons to learn from life. This was Jane Austen's first major success as a novelist - though not the first of her books to be written. It's a perfect place to start - witty, sophisticated writing, and some well-observed character sketches. It seems as fresh today as ever.


 Sense and Sensibility (1811) casts two sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as representatives of 'sense' and 'sensibility' respectively. Elinor bears her social disappointments with dignity and restraint - and thereby gets her man. Marianne on the other hand is excitable and impetuous, following her lover to London - where she quickly becomes disillusioned with him. Recovering and gaining more 'sense', she then sees the good qualities in her old friend Colonel Brandon, who has been waiting in the wings and is now conveniently on hand to propose marriage.
The first part of Northanger Abbey (1818) is set in drawing rooms of Bath. The heroine is imaginative Catherine Morland who falls in love  with Henry Tilney, a young clergyman. When he invites her to meet his family at the Abbey however, she sees nothing but Gothic melodrama at every turn - since they were very fashionable at the time. Her visions of medieval horror prove groundless of course.
This is Jane Austen's satirical critique of Romantic cliché and excess. But Catherine eventually learns to see the world in a realistic light - and gets her man in the end. This volume also contains the early short novels Lady Susan and The Watsons, as well as the unfinished Sanditon.





Mansfield Park (1814) is more serious after the comedy  of the earlier novels. Heroine Fanny Price is adopted into the family of her rich relatives. She is long-suffering and passive to a point which makes her almost unappealing - but her refusal to tolerate any drop in moral standards eventually teaches lessons to all concerned. (All that is except standout character Mrs Norris who is a sponging and interfering Aunt you will never forget.) The hero Edmund is dazzled by sexually attractive Mary Crawford - but in the nick of time sees the error of his ways and marries Fanny instead. Slow moving, but full of moral subtleties.


Emma (1816) Charming and wilful Emma Woodhouse amuses herself by dabbling in other people's affairs, planning their lives the way she sees fit. Most of her match-making plots go badly awry, and moral confusion reigns until she abandons her self-delusion and wakes up to the fact that stern but honourable Mr Knightly is the right man for her after all. As usual, money and social class underpin everything. Some wonderful comic scenes, and a rakish character Frank Churchill who finally reveals his flaws by making the journey to London just to get his hair cut.



Persuasion (1818) is the most mature of her novels, if one of the least exciting. Heroine Anne Elliott has been engaged to Captain Wentworth, but has broken off the engagement in deference to family and friends. Meeting  him again eight years later, she goes against conventional wisdom and accepts his second proposal of marriage. Anne is a sensitive and thoughtful character, quite unlike some of the earlier heroines. Jane Austen wrote of her "She is almost too good for me". There is a shift of location to Lyme Regis for this novel, which reveals for the first time a heroine acting from a deep sense of personal conviction, against the grain of conventional wisdom.

   The Complete Critical Guide to Jane Austen is a good introduction to Austen criticism and commentary. It includes a potted biography, an outline of the novels, and pointers towards the main critical writings - from Walter Scott to critics of the present day. It also includes a thorough bibliography which covers biography, criticism in books and articles, plus pointers towards specialist journals. It also has an interesting chapter discussing Austen on the screen.


 


Jane Austen - complete critical guide




Biography, guidance notes, and criticism of Jane Austen
This comes from a new series by Routledge which offers comprehensive but single-volume introductions to major English writers. They are aimed at students of literature, but are accessible to general readers who might like to deepen their understanding.
The approach taken is quite straightforward. Part One is a potted biography  of Austen, placing her life and work in a socio-historical context. This takes into account the role of women in the early nineteenth century; the position of a female author in the world of book publishing  at the time; the social conventions surrounding women and marriage; and the sheer political fact that she was living at the time of the French revolution and war between Britain and France.
Part Two provides a synoptic view of Austen's six great novels - from Northanger Abbey to Persuasion. The works are described in outline, and then their main themes illuminated. This is followed by pointers towards the main critical writings on these texts and issues.
Part Three deals with criticism of Austen's work. This is presented in chronological order - from contemporaries such as Walter Scott to critics of the present day, with the focus on feminist and gender criticism, Marxist, and psychoanalytic criticism. Some of the readings Irvine outlines will be quite provocative and surprising to many readers - particularly those dealing with such issues as slavery in Mansfield Park and both sexual and homosexual readings of Sense and Sensibility.
The book ends with a commendably thorough bibliography which covers biography, criticism in books  and articles, plus pointers towards specialist Austen journals. There is also a separate chapter which deals with Austen on screen. This discusses the controversial issue of Austen's work as it has been appropriated to project modern notions of English nationalism and the 'heritage industry'.
This will be an excellent starting point for students who are new to Austen's work - and a refresher course for those who would like to keep up to date with criticism. And it certainly is up to date - with references to publications only just over a year old at the time of publication.
Robert P. Irvine, Jane Austen, Abingdon: Routledge, 2005, pp.190

Jane Austen - her life and works

1775. Jane Austen born in Steventon rectory, Hampshire, the daughter of a local rector. She was the youngest of seven children. Two brothers go on to serve at sea. Two others enter the church.
1780+. Her father was a competent scholar who encourages her education in English literature, French, and Italian.
1790. Early writing and experiments with what she described as 'nonsense, burlesque and satire'.
1795. Lady Susan - a short novel  written in epistolary form. Elinor and Marianne exists as first draft of what was to become Sense and Sensibility.
1796. Begins to write First Impressions, which was completed as Pride and Prejudice the following year. Reads Fanny Burney (1752-1840) the creator of 'the novel of home life'.




Jane Austen: a Life is a biography  which traces Jane Austen's progress through a difficult childhood, an unhappy love affair, her experiences as a poor relation and her decision to reject a marriage that would solve all her problems - except that of continuing as a writer. Both the woman and the novels are radically reassessed in this biography. Her life might have been superficially uneventful, but Claire Tomalin brings out the flesh and blood woman who lies behind the cool, ironic prose.


1798. Northanger Abbey a deliberate satire of the type of Gothic Romance (The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk) then in vogue. It was sold - but not published. This and all her subsequent work was published anonymously.
1801. Father retires to live with family in Bath.
1805. Death of father. The Watsons written about this time.
1807. Family settles to live in Southampton.
1809. Family moves to Chawton, Hampshire (owned by Jane Austen's brother). She writes all her novels in a corner of one sitting-room surrounded by the entire family.
1811. Sense and Sensibility published. Title pages states 'By a Lady'. Immediate success.
1813. Pride and Prejudice published and goes into second edition same year.
1814. Mansfield Park published.
1815. Emma published. First translations into French appear.
1817. Writes Sanditon. Dies at Winchester. Buried in the cathedral. Persuasion published posthumously.
The Complete Critical Guide to Jane Austen is a good introduction to Austen criticism and commentary. It includes a potted biography, an outline of the novels, and pointers towards the main critical writings - from Walter Scott to critics of the present day. It also includes a thorough bibliography which covers biography, criticism in books and articles, plus pointers towards specialist journals. It also has an interesting chapter discussing Austen on the screen.

 


Jane Austen - selected literary criticism


F.W. Bradbrook, Jane Austen and her Predecessors, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.
Julia Prewitt Brown, Jane Austen's Novels: Social Change and Literary Form, Cambridge (Mass), 1979.
Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975, revised 1987.
W.A. Craick, Jane Austen: the Six Novels, London: Methuen, 1965.
D.D. Devlin, Jane Austen and Education, London, 1975.
Alistair M. Duckworth, The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen's Novels, Baltimore (Md) and London, 1971.

Jane Austen - biographical studies

David Cecil, A Portrait of Jane Austen, London: Constable, 1978.
R.W. Chapman (ed) Jane Austen's Letters to her Sister Cassandra and Others, (2nd edn) London 1952, repr. 1979.
R.W. Chapman, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems, Oxford 1948, repr. 1970.
John Halperin, The Life of Jane Austen, Baltimore and London, 1984.
Park Honan, Jane Austen: her life, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.
Elizabeth Jenkins, Jane Austen: a Biography, London: Gollancz, 1949.
Marghanita Laski, Jane Austen, London: Thames and Hudson, 1975.
George Holbert Tucker, A Goodly Heritage: A History of Jane Austen's Family, Manchester,  1983.

 


Welcome to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.


  Much more than information about the Jane Austen Centre, this website features an online Jane Austen magazine with over 500 articles, a giftshop, information about the Jane Austen Festival, Regency tea rooms, walking tours, Jane Austen's Regency World magazine, an online quiz plus a comprehensive list of research relevant Jane Austen related links-we even have a monthly E-newsletter  which will keep you up to date with the world of Jane Austen.
The Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street in Bath is a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane's Bath experience - the effect that living here had on her and her writing.
The exhibition is enhanced during 2008 with 'Costumes from BBC's Miss Austen Regrets featuring the dresses worn by Olivia Williams as Jane Austen. The stunning costumes are the work of BAFTA and EMMY award winning designer Andrea Galer. 
Jane Austen is perhaps the best known and best loved of Bath's many famous residents and visitors. She paid two long visits here towards the end of the eighteenth century, and from 1801 to 1806 Bath was her home.

Her intimate knowledge of the city is reflected in two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which are largely set in Bath.
The city is still very much as Jane Austen knew it, preserving in its streets, public buildings and townscapes the elegant well-ordered world that she portrays so brilliantly in her novels. Now the pleasure of exploring Jane Austen's Bath can be enhanced by visiting the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street. Here, in a Georgian town house in the heart of the city, the visitor can find out more about Bath in Jane Austen's time and the importance of Bath in her life and work.
We have an attractive shop  which offers an unrivalled selection of Jane Austen related books, DVD's, CD's,linen, jewellery, gifts, cards, stationery, lace and needlepoint.


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