Devoted fans and scholars of Jane Austen—as well as skeptics—will rejoice at Tony Tanner’s superb book on the incomparable novelist. Distilling twenty years of thinking and writing about Austen, Tanner treats in fresh and illuminating ways the questions that have always occupied her most perceptive critics. How can we reconcile the limited social world of her novels with the largeness of her vision? How does she deal with depicting a once-stable society that was changing alarmingly during her lifetime? How does she express and control the sexuality and violence beneath the well-mannered surface of her milieu? How does she resolve the problems of communication among characters pinioned by social reticences?
Tanner guides us through Austen’s novels from relatively sunny early works to the darker, more pessimistic Persuasion and fragmentary Sanditon—a journey that takes her from acceptance of a society maintained by landed property, family, money, and strict propriety through an insistence on the need for authentication of these values to a final skepticism and even rejection. In showing her progress from a parochial optimism to an ability to encompass her whole society, Tanner renews our sense of Jane Austen as one of the great novelists, confirming both her local and abiding relevance.
In a comprehensive volume embracing a lengthy chapter on each of Austen’s six novels, as well as the unfinished fragment Sanditon, and a massive introduction focusing on the works ‘in the relation to problems concerned with society, education, and language’, Tanner reveals a Jane Austen far more subtle, experimental, politically engaged, philosophically aware, and psychoanalytically sophisticated than has hitherto been supposed. On almost every page there is an expected disclosure of meaning.
One of the most readable books yet to appear on Jane Austen, as well as the most interesting in itself… It is continuously sensitive to the feel of fictive domesticity, and the potential of a situation in terms of what goes on in modern life, and has gone on in other novels.
This is the sort of intelligent study of a single author’s oeuvre that has become uncommon in recent criticism. It is genuinely introductory as well as genuinely searching.
Tony Tanner’s Jane Austen is an excellent and informative study—a welcome addition to the library of that General Intelligent Reader in whose existence university presses are committed to believe.
Mr. Tanner has the rare talent of being able to speak simultaneously to the scholar and the general reader… Throughout this book one is aware of a perceptive ‘close reader’ whose understanding of Jane Austen’s works has been deepened and modified not only by constant re-reading of the texts, but by developments in recent critical theory. The result is a continuously interesting and rewarding study that builds on the critical tradition and often extends it in surprising ways.
- 291 pages
- 5-7/16 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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