How_Jane_Austen_Uses_Marriage_to_Get_Wha.pdf - Pursuit The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee Copyright \u00a9 The University

How_Jane_Austen_Uses_Marriage_to_Get_Wha.pdf - Pursuit The...

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1 Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee Copyright © The University of Tennessee How Jane Austen Uses Marriage to Get What She Wants HANNAH EBERLE Faculty Advisor: Misty Anderson Department of English, University of Tennessee, Knoxville As a biochemistry major approaching the subject of Jane Austen and feminism, I found the dichotomy between pleasure readers and critical readers interest- ing. How can books that are almost 200 years old draw so much attention from both quarters still today? In my thesis, I use S ense and Sensibility , Pride and Prejudice , and Emma to discuss how Austen uses the marriage plot in the con- text of the 18th century. This plot device allows her to point out problems with marriage as a market, such as emphasis on wealth and the social setup that requires women to be “taken care of” by men. Her strategy works because it is a mixture of the pleasurable and the critical: one cannot read Austen without enjoying the romantic love stories and learning deeper lessons. This intriguing overlap is one of the reasons Austen continues to impact the modern world. Jane Austen is one of the most well-known authors of English literature. Her novels are routinely read for academic purposes, yet they are also widely read for pleasure. Some divide the Austen audience into these two distinct groups, academic readers and star struck fans. In fact, it has been noted that “a customary method of establishing one’s credentials as a reader of Austen has been to regret that others simply will insist on liking her in inap- propriate ways” (Lynch, 7). But are these two groups really so distinct? Many people enjoy Austen’s novels because of the love stories, but they still appreciate the social criticism that exists beneath the outermost layer of the texts. Academic readers decipher the agenda of the novels, but they must also get pleasure from Austen if they are willing to continually grapple with her works. The middle ground that exists between these literary approaches leads the two audiences to the same destination. One can learn from Austen’s critique of her world regardless of the reason behind the reading. Austen voices her concerns about 18 th century gender roles throughout her novels, and both the pleasure reader and the critic reap the benefits of her work. A woman choosing to write as a vocation has been, in and of itself, a feminist act for the majority of literary history. Authorship was traditionally a male dominated field with
2 EBERLE [Vol. 3:1 Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee few mentors for female writers. Gilbert and Gubar have shown that this conundrum leads to an “‘anxiety of authorship’ – a radical fear that [the female author] cannot create, that because she can never become a ‘precursor’ the act of writing will isolate or destroy her” (Gilbert, 23). They stress that the average female assumed she would ultimately submit

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