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Unbounded AttachmentSentiment and Politics in the Age of the French Revolution$
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Harriet Guest

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686810.001.0001

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‘Inadvertencies and misconstructions’: Jane Austen’s Heroines

‘Inadvertencies and misconstructions’: Jane Austen’s Heroines

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(p.162) 5 ‘Inadvertencies and misconstructions’: Jane Austen’s Heroines
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Unbounded Attachment
Author(s):

Harriet Guest

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686810.003.0005

In Jane Austen’s novels the lives of her female protagonists are circumscribed, but their intense inward and domestic focus discloses the permeability of the boundaries that confine them. Austen seems to respond quite directly and react sharply against the directness of communication which had been an ideal for progressive thinkers and reformers in the 1790s. In both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, the earliest of her full-length novels to be published, the narrative depends on, even celebrates, the inability of characters to speak their minds or exchange their thoughts. As often as not it is the impediments and misunderstandings hindering the transmission of information that provide matter for the development of the plot in her work. But the obscurities that impede candid exchange of the kind that Godwin appreciated work to emphasise the importance of the unspoken sense of fellow-feeling which enables Austen’s heroines to negotiate the complexities of their social worlds. Their capacity for sympathetic sentiment is understood to complement the professional responsibilities male characters are expected with increasing insistence to fulfill. Novels discussed include Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sanditon.

Keywords:   Austen, conversation, misunderstanding, incoherence, silence, modernity, profession

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