Jane Austen’s Novels and the Contemporary Social and Literary Conventions.

Topics: Novel, Pride and Prejudice, Sociology Pages: 35 (12970 words) Published: August 9, 2008
Content Page:
Content Page:2
1.Eighteenth-Century Conduct Literature 4
1.1. The Introduction to Conduct Manuals4
1.2. Patriarchy in Conduct Literature4
1.3. The Private Sphere as Woman’s Domain.5
1.4. Characteristics of ideal female features6
1.5. Conduct Manuals and the Novels9
2. Romantic Novels.11
2.1. Introduction to the Novel.11
2.2. The Novel of Manners, Sentiment and Emulation.12
2.3 The Gothic Romance.13
3. Jane Austen and Her Novels in relation to the Contemporary Literature.15 3.1. Austen’s Criticism about the Contemporary Fiction.15 3.2. Jane Austen as a Conservative Writer and as a Social Critic.16 3.3. Austen’s writing in her own perception.17

4. Pride and Prejudice.20
4.1. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy – the Reversed Ideals.20 22
5. Emma23
5.1. Emma the heroine.23
5.2. Men of sense and silly wives26
5.3. Emma as the unusual learning.28

The end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, both in literature and in everyday life aspects, can be characterized by a great deal of conventions and rules. The social conventions, in particular those concerning life of a young woman, were presented in conduct manuals. Many of these conventions were supported by plenty literary authors, who made their protagonists basing on the ideal image of woman which was shown in the conduct books. Moreover, the authors created their own way of writing, which was supposed to focus, by and large, only on the positive aspects of the character, making he or she a role model to be emulated by the reader.

Jane Austen, being a highly regarded author at that time, created a specific style of writing, which was negotiating with the existing conventions in many aspects. Her novels, which already had gained a considerable popularity among her contemporaries, are the attempts to present protagonists, which are neither the role models, nor they impose on the reader any particular solutions to the problems, proving that the most important aspect of the character is his or her ability to alter and overcome the vices.

The purpose of the paper is to make an attempt to present Austen’s negotiating with the contemporary conventions. In the first chapter the way conduct manuals perceived a woman is presented. The second chapter describes the trends in the novels written at that time. The third chapter is the beginning of the analysis of Austen’ writing in contrast to her contemporaries as well as in the way the author herself perceives her writing. In the following chapters the novels Pride and Prejudice and Emma are used as the examples of Austen’s works in which the protagonists unusual at that time may be considered the exponents of Austen’s playing with the conventions.

1.Eighteenth-Century Conduct Literature

1.1. The Introduction to Conduct Manuals
Conduct literary books are believed by the critics of them to be exponents of male ideology pursuing to create an ideal image of womanhood which would fit the contemporary view of social relations, that is, woman being inferior to man in every aspect of life. The main aim of this chapter is to present main assumptions of conduct manuals. In this examination I will use the perspective presented in Female relationships in Jane Austen’s novels. A critique of female ideal propagated in the 18th century conduct literature by Ilona Dobosiewicz as my theoretical background.

The author uses two books as her main examples of the genre of conduct manuals. She founds her research on James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women and Thomas Gisborne’s Enquiry into the Duties of Female Sex. As further examples Dobosiewicz lists Dr. Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy To His Daughters (1774), Mrs. Griffith’s Essays Addressed to Young Women (1782) and the Reverend John Bennet’s Letters to a Young Lady (1791). From the above-mentioned books she draws the conclusion that: conduct...
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