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Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays
Jane Austen A Collection of Critical Essays Author:Ian Watt (Editor) This collection of critical essays on Jane Austen is a cross-section of modern opinion. It places her novels in a frame far wider than the provincial middle-class society she portrayed so well. Here, with a few exceptions, the novels of Jane Austen are seen as perceptive observations of the human condition, making adroit use of irony and wit as ... more »means of moral and social judgment.
Jane Austen's literary image, her importance in the tradition of the English novel, has frequently called forth heated opinion. Mark Twain said, "Whenever I take up Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven." Thomas Carlyle referred to the novels as "dishwashings." On the other hand, in our time E.M. Forster has confessed that he is "a Jane-ite and therefore slightly imbecile about Jane Austen." Andre Gide praised her work as "exquisite mastery of whatever could be mastered."
In contrast to such extremes of approbation an d disdain, adoration and condescension, recent literary and historical scholarship has taken a fresh approach to Jane Austen's work and produced in the past two decades rich and illuminating appraisals confirming her place in British letters.
Jane Austen aptly described the sharp focus with which she viewed the world as "a little bit of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush." Beneath her preoccupation with the class system, with manners, decorum, and the established way, there was reason and intelligence, and a fine sense of domestic humor. Jane Austen believed that the world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who merely feel: she was devoted to comedy.
This volume of contemporary critical appreciation makes it clear how a writer's image can enlarge over the years from that of charming entertainer to mature and conscious artist.
The essays include, among others:
"Jane Austen"--Virginia Woolf
"A Long Talk About Jane Austen"--Edmund Wilson
"Irony as Discrimination: Pride and Prejudice"--Marvin Mudrick
"The Humiliation of Emma Woodhouse"--Mark Schorer
"What Became of Jane Austen?"--Kingsley Amis« less