JANE AUSTEN: The Secret Radical

JANE AUSTEN: The Secret Radical

HELENA KELLY    Book Number: 85961    Product format: Hardback

Novelist. Social Activist. Revolutionary. We have been reading Jane Austen wrong for the last 200 years and Helen Kelly is here to uncover the true meaning of her much-loved novels, declaring her a woman who used a 'Romcom' genre to grapple with complex subjects: feminism, slavery, abuse, poverty, the power of the Church, evolution. Kelly goes so far as to call this titan in literature 'radical' and sheds a light on Austen's own life before putting each novel under the microscope, from The Age of Brass in Sense and Sensibility and The Chain and the Cross of Mansfield Park, to Decline and Fall in Persuasion and Emma's Gruel. This in-depth guide to Austen's work reveals patterns in her novels, including the fact that five of her six novels had either explicit references to enclosure (the legal process in England consolidating landholdings) or discussion of its results, and her union of Elizabeth and Darcy as the 'perfect marriage' in Pride and Prejudice was used as a symbolic way to wed laughter and politics. Discover among the balls, flirtations, and walks, the menacing undertones of the relations of the sexes in Sense and Sensibility with Austen's use of scissors in the hands of men to indicate their violent impulses, and understand the meaning behind her conflation of the Church of England with slavery in Mansfield Park. Added to this, you will uncover fascinating insights into the authoress' life such as the elusiveness of her image, Kelly citing the only finished portrait of her as the one depicting a slight figure vanishing into the background with her face turned away, as well as celebrate her love of the countryside, the prospect of moving from Southampton back to the country reigniting her interest in publishing work. Among anecdotes of Austen's own life, Kelly explores the responses to this icon's work, from W. H. Auden's Letter to Lord Byron which proclaims that it makes him 'most uncomfortable to see an English spinster... describe the amorous effects of 'brass'', to Winston Churchill's meditations on the society of Pride and Prejudice which he remarked as having 'manners controlling natural passion so far as they could', a sentiment Kelly is quick to trace back to Rudyard Kipling's view of the novels as presenting 'everyday peacetime life'. Kelly describes Austen as the only writer during this period who set their novels more or less in her present, allowing readers to this day to follow her footsteps. Sheds facsinating light on the complex socio-political commentary that lies beneath the glamour of her stories. 328pp.
Published price: £20
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ISBN 9781785781162
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