Character and Conflict in Jane Austen's Novels: A Psychological Approach

Overview

In Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s Novels, Bernard J. Paris offers an analysis of the protagonists in four of Jane Austen’s most popular novels. His analysis reveals them to be brilliant mimetic creations who often break free of the formal and thematic limitations placed upon them by Austen. Paris traces the powerful tensions between form, theme, and mimesis in Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion.

Paris uses Northrop Frye’s theory of comic forms to ...

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Overview

In Character and Conflict in Jane Austen’s Novels, Bernard J. Paris offers an analysis of the protagonists in four of Jane Austen’s most popular novels. His analysis reveals them to be brilliant mimetic creations who often break free of the formal and thematic limitations placed upon them by Austen. Paris traces the powerful tensions between form, theme, and mimesis in Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion.

Paris uses Northrop Frye’s theory of comic forms to analyze and describe the formal structure of the novels, and Karen Horney’s psychological theories to explore the personalities and inner conflicts of the main characters. The concluding chapter turns from the characters to their creator, employing the Horneyan categories of self-effacing, detached, and expansive personality types to interpret Jane Austen’s own personality.

Readers of Jane Austen will find much that is new and challenging in this study. It is one of the few books to recognize and pay tribute to Jane Austen’s genius in characterization. Anyone who reads this book will come away with a new understanding of Austen’s heroines as imagined human beings and also with a deeper feeling for the troubled humanity of the author herself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Paris] has an interesting thesis: in Austen’s work there is a tension between realistic characterization and conventionalized form—that is, there is a basic contradiction between the character as a figure in the comicaction and the character as a psychologically whole person . . . [T]his is a provocative work.” —Shernaz Mollinger, Library Journal “Professor Paris writes energetically and knowledgeably, and his clinical scheme can illuminate characters . . . Professor Paris’s book may be most noteworthy for intensely raising the question of whether psychology can afford to take only case histories from great novelists’ mimetic narratives, which are also human testaments.” —Frederick M. Keener, Modern Language Review “The psychological elements in Paris’s approach originate in Third Force theory . . . Paris quotes [E. M.] Forster’s conception of characters as “creations inside creations” having an autonomous existence, and inclining toward “treason against the main scheme of the book.” Of course this idea neither begins nor ends with Forster, but he articulates it well and provides Paris with a language for describing the occasions when Austen’s characters seem to escape her control and even—according to Paris—her understanding . . . Paris believes we may arrive at a more enriching reading of Austen and more consistency in Austen criticism if we recognize Austen as an artist whose mimetic goals characteristically conflict at crucial moments with her thematic goals, particularly in her conclusions, which celebrate social harmony through the ritual of marriage.” —Sheila Ortiz Taylor, Eighteenth-Century Studies “[Paris] succeeds . . . in giving the impression that Jane Austen was a subtle-souled psychologist, particularly with Fanny Price, and he illustrates the difficultly of reaching decisions on prudential and romantic issues of Persuasion.” —F. B. Pinion, The Review of English Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412849869
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard J. Paris is professor emeritus of English at the University of Florida. His fields of interest include Victorian and comparative fiction and the psychological study of literature. He is author of numerous books, including Rereading George Eliot, Heaven and Its Discontents: Milton’s Characters in Paradise Lost, Bargains with Fate: Psychological Crises and Conflicts in Shakespeare and His Plays, and A General Drama of Pain: Character and Fate in Hardy’s Major Novels.

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