Jane Austen's Radical Side: a Feminist Reading of Jane Austen's Novels and Heroines

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Jane Austen's Radical Side: a Feminist Reading of Jane Austen's Novels and Heroines

Type: Master thesis
Title: Jane Austen's Radical Side: a Feminist Reading of Jane Austen's Novels and Heroines
Author: Westhoff, Lieke
Issue Date: 2018-05
Keywords: Jane Austen
Feminism
Feminist
Pride and Prejudice
Emma
Radical
Wollstonecraft
Abstract: In this thesis, I am going to interrogate what might be meant by ‘feminism’ in the 1810s, what Austen might have understood by it, what we now understand by it and how we might apply those ideas to Austen’s fictions. I shall argue that, although Austen uses the rather conservative genre of the courtship novel, or according to Marilyn Butler, the conservative partisan novel, she employs this genre to subversively express her radical ideas (Butler 3). I shall explore the idea that Austen rarely made her views explicit in her work, due to the prejudice that was attached to feminist opinions at the time due to the life story of Mary Wollstonecraft; I shall trace the effect of Wollstonecraft’s biography on Austen in the next chapter. By investigating different aspects of the family in Austen’s novels, I shall demonstrate how Austen did express her ‘feminist’ opinions through her works, albeit subversively. In particular, I shall examine the weakness of authority figures in her novels. The weakness of these authority figures allows Austen’s heroines to exert more power and therefore have a greater sense of their own agency. I shall further argue that Austen employs the weakness of authority figures in her novels to inspire more feminist behaviour in her heroines, who are not the ‘perfect’ image of Georgian femininity but are nevertheless, as is clear to the reader, favoured over the other characters by Austen. I attempt to show that Austen’s ‘feminist’ tendencies can be seen in her praising her heroines beyond all other characters while these are the characters that display the most agency and therefore are seen to possess ‘masculine’ properties.
Supervisor: Newton, Michael
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Literary Studies (Master)
Specialisation: English Literature and Culture
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/61924
 

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