; Literary Encyclopedia

Recommended reading for Jane Austen

Eagleton, Terry. The English Novel: An Introduction. London: Hutchinson, 2005. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

An energetic and stimulating account of the development of the English novel from Defoe to Woolf in one volume. Eagleton considers Defoe, Swift, Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Scott, Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, James, Conrad, Lawrence and Woolf. Eagleton's approach remains funademtally Marxist and seeks to uncover the relations of form and content to the political context, but in no sense reduces texts to mere ideological reflections. His account remains suitably various and stimulating, and indeed much more interesting than many supposedly objective histories. Given the huge scope of the work, there are inevitable contractions and some will want a finer understanding of the political context than is possible in such a summary work.

Roberts, Warren. Jane Austen and the French Revolution. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Warren Roberts' study was well-received on publication and remains valuable. It comprises four chapters -- on politics, war, religion and women and the family -- and is distinguished by calm good sense and generally sound understanding of its period. Since Roberts was an historian by training, the view it offers often surprises the more literary reader with the richness of his understanding of just what apparently slight references would have meant to contemporary readers, notably when he is examining the way that Austen scarcely speaks -- yet speaks loudly enough -- of what is evidently a very real fear of French invasion.

Todd, Janet. Women’s Friendship in Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

A finely-written and capacious survey of fictional relationships in the eighteenth century. Todd's focus is on the construction of friendship between women in novels, but she inevitably attends to women-men relations, and en passant men-men. She groups her novels by the kinds of relationship they portray, thus: manipulative, political, social, erotic and sentimental. Despite the urge to find patterns, she is discriminating, and not reductive. Her essay on Jane Austen, for example (the primary purpose of this annotation), notices how Austen seems to seek 'social friendship' between her women, but never can quite allow it. Fanny Price prefers hierarchy, denying horizontal and equivalent friendship with Mary Crawford. Mrs Norris similarly denies Fanny friendship. Emma Woodhouse searches for a sisterly relation in Harriet Smith, but both mistakes the quality of her object and cannot in fact surrender her tendency to patronise. She snobbishly disdains and patronises Jane Fairfax, belatedly to recognise that Jane is the equal friend she has needed, just before the novel ends and prevents the friendship developing. Without labouring the point, Todd provides a refreshing new perspective on the way in which sisterhood is vitiated by hierarchy and sibling rivalry.

Todd, Janet, ed. Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

This volume contains 40 articles on all conceivable aspects of Jane Austen's writings, each written by the best expert that could be found in the early twenty-first century. It constitutes a wonderful starting point for the serious amateur, the undegraduate and the specialist entering new territory. Literary topics covered include: Biography, Chronology of composition, Language, Austen's letters, Literary influences, Poetry, Portraits, Critical reponses, the Austen cult, Publishing history, Sequels and Translations. Contextual essays cover Agriculure, Book production, Cities, Consumer goods, Domestic architecture, Dress, Education, Food, Landownwership, Landscape, the Literary scene; Medicine, illness and disease; Money, Nationalism and empire, Pastimes, Philosophy, Politics, Professions, Psychology, Rank, Reading practices, Religion, Trade and Transport.

Clark, Robert, and Gerry Dutton.“Agriculture.” Jane Austen in Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 185-193. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

By analysis of contemporary agriculture and tithe maps, this essay shows that George Austen's economic involvement in farming was much more considerable than hitherto appreciated, and suggests that life in the Steventon rectory where Austen was brought up was in consequence significantly determined by the considerable rise in agricultural revenues during 1785-1800, and by the politics and uncertainties of the agricultural economy.

Batey, Mavis. Jane Austen and the English Landscape. London: Barn Elms, 1996. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Batey is President of the Garden History Society and has a comprehensive understanding of landscape genres and artists, both those which are canonical and those which are now largely forgotten. She provides a lucid account of changing attitudes to landscape in late-Georgian and Regency England, and shows how Austen's works continuously comment on these changes and use them in turn to illuminate moral character. The book is provided with more than 100 sumptuously printed and judiciously selected reproductions of contemporary paintings usually, but not entirely, of landscape, and including nearly all the houses and grounds which belonged to the Austen family, as well as others which she is known to have visited. These both support the argument and show us the world as Austen's contemporaries wanted it seen. Batey's text guides the reader rapidly, lightly, and surely to the literary and visual intertexts presumed and indicated by each of Austen's novels, being especially valuable in exploring the line-by-line resonances between Gilpin's writings on the picturesque and Pride and Prejudice, and the relationship between Repton's refashioning of Stoneleigh for Austen's uncle Thomas Leigh and the representation of Sotherton in Mansfield Park. The introductory chapters on the cult of Sensibility, the Gothic imagination, and Gilpin on the Picturesque can be consulted with real benefit by those whose interest is not primarily with Austen. This is a book which speaks quietly and with real knowledge, and which should be read by everyone who presumes to understand Austen and her world.

Clark, Robert, ed. ’Sense and Sensibility’ and ’Pride and Prejudice’. London: Macmillan, 1994. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

This volume updates the earlier Casebook edited by Brian Southam (1976), offering a selection of the best writing on these two titles written since. It includes essays by Alastair Duckworth, Marilyn Butler, Angela Leighton, Mary Poovey, Judith Lowder Newton, Julia Prewitt Brown, Isobel Armstrong, Rachel Brownstein and Karen Newman.

Lodge, David, ed. Jane Austen, Emma: A Selection of Critical Essays. London: Macmillan, 1968. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

The old Casebook series from the 1960s remain very good value, providing well selected contemporary opinions and excellent essays from the heyday of literary criticism. This volume includes essays by Arnold Kettle, Marvin Mudrick, Edgar F. Shannon, Lionel Trilling, Mark Schorer, R.E. Hughes, Wayne Booth, Malcolm Bradbury, W.J. Harvey.

Tanner, Tony. Jane Austen. London: Macmillan, 1986. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Tony Tanner was one of the finest critics of his generation and this volume of essays, three of which first appeared as Penguin introductions, shows his skills at their highest. Constantly alert to turns of phrase, informed about the social context, and seeking to elucidate for the general reader, this book remains a delight for anyone who is interested in the literary critical essay, as much as for those who are interested in Austen's work.

Poplawski, Paul. A Jane Austen Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

This companion to Austen studies is most valuable for the "encyclopedia" element, some 275 pages which describe the works, all the characters in them, and the people who figure in Austen biographies. The volume also includes a chronology of Austen's life and works, an historical chronology and literary chronology for 1750-1820, and a selective bibliography of recent important studies (up to 1998). The whole is well executed and makes for a useful handbook for amateur and professional readers who wish for a quickly consulted reference volume to the detail of the life and works.

Lynch, Deirdre, ed. Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

An important collection with essays by Claudia Johnson, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Barbara Benedict, William Galperin, Clara Tuite, Katie Trumpener, Mary Favret, Roger Sales and Susan Fraiman. Topics covered include the deification of Austen, Austen and the Regency, the rise of the Janeites, early readers of Austen, Austen's reception in America, Edward Said's reading of Austen.

Benedict, Barbara.“Sensibility by the Numbers: Austen’s Work and Regency Popular Fiction.” Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees. Ed. Deirdre Lynch. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. 63-86. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Benedict explores how Austen's writing is consciously formed for competition on the shelves of the expanding circulating libraries.

Erickson, Lee.“The Economy of Novel Reading: Jane Austen and the Circulating Library.” The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing,1800-1850. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. 125-141. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Erickson considers how economic and technological changes in printing and the publishing industry condition the market in literary goods, and so to an extent determine the kinds of work written and published. His particular interest is in Wordsworth and romantic poetry, in the development of the essay as a commercially viable form, in Jane Austen, Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle. His chapter on Jane Austen and the circulating library offers both a useful short history of the development of the libraries, and a digest of references to the libraries in Austen's letters and works. Whilst his account establishes the importance or appreciating the kind of market that Austen addressed, it would have been good to have more reflection on the implications for Austen's form and meaning.

Everett, Nigel.“The View of Donwell Abbey.” The Tory View of the Landscape. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994. 183-203. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Lynch, Deidre.“Jane Austen and the Social Machine.” The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 207-250. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Lynch, Deirdre, ed. Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2020. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Michie, Elsie.“Austen’s Powers: Engaging With Adam Smith in Debates about Wealth and Virtue.” Novel 34 (2000): n. pag. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Michie offers a finely argued and cogent explication of how Austen poses a concern with how "virtue" might survive the onslaught of money and consumer capitalism, supporting her argument with reference to Adam Smith's articulation of these concerns in his Theory of Moral Sentiments and J.G.A. Pocock's discussion in his Virtue, Commerce and History (Cambridge, 1985).

Martin, Graham.“Austen and Class.” Women’s Writing 5 (1998): n. pag. Print.

Recommended by Robert Clark

Graham Martin argues very effectively against Tony Tanner that Austen's contemporaries did not yet think in terms of "class", rather in terms of "rank" or "order". The argument, whilst historically sound and true of the early novels, tends to scant the way in which class-consciousness can be seen as emergent in Emma. The essay is, however, an important contribution to this debate.

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