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Liberty in Jane Austen's Persuasion
     

Liberty in Jane Austen's Persuasion

by Kathryn E. Davis
 

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Liberty in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a meditation on Persuasion as a text in which Jane Austen, writing in the Age of Revolution, enters the conversation of her epoch. Poets, philosophers, theologians and political thinkers of the long eighteenth century, including William Cowper, George Gordon Byron, Samuel Johnson, Hugh Blair, Thomas Sherlock, Edmund

Overview

Liberty in Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a meditation on Persuasion as a text in which Jane Austen, writing in the Age of Revolution, enters the conversation of her epoch. Poets, philosophers, theologians and political thinkers of the long eighteenth century, including William Cowper, George Gordon Byron, Samuel Johnson, Hugh Blair, Thomas Sherlock, Edmund Burke, and Charles Pasley, endeavored definitively to determine what it means for a human being to be free. Persuasion is Austen’s elegant, artful and complex addition to this conversation. In this study, Kathryn Davis proposes that Austen's last complete novel offers an apologia for human liberty primarily understood as self-governance. Austen’s characters struggle to attain liberty, not from an oppressive political regime or stifling social conventions, but for a type of excellence that is available to each human being. The novel's presentation of moral virtue has wider cultural significance as a force that shapes both the “little social commonwealth[s]” inhabited by characters of Austen’s own making and, possibly, the identity of the nation whose sovereign read Persuasion.

Editorial Reviews

Roger Moore
Davis's highly readable, well-researched book offers a fresh view of Austen's final complete novel by placing the work's discussion of liberty and personal freedom within the context of Enlightenment philosophical debates and religious traditions deeply rooted in the past. Literary scholars and laypeople alike will find much to admire in Davis's careful reading of Persuasion.
Natasha Duquette
Refreshing, clear, and convincing. Davis dialogues graciously yet incisively with contemporary critics and positions Austen’s Persuasion as an astute response to eighteenth-century philosophical theology and political thought. Fascinatingly, Davis takes up two writers whom Austen admired—Thomas Sherlock and William Cowper—and proposes their Christian concepts of grace, diligence, and fearlessness informed Austen’s ideas about liberty of soul. Davis illustrates how, in an age of revolutions, Austen consciously defined liberty in terms of practical wisdom, spiritual fortitude, active speech, and social responsibility. The result is an illuminating examination of feminine and masculine character growth and the attendant political consequences.
ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles
In an age where single-author studies are rarely encouraged by publishers, Kathryn E. Davis’s concise Liberty in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” demonstrates the undoubted value of this particular genre of monograph. Instead of focusing on the verbal art of Jane Austen’s oeuvre as a whole, Davis selects Austen’s final complete novel, Persuasion (1817), for analysis. The result is a theoretically informed specialist study that adds significantly to the growing body of research on Austen’s work. It reveals its author’s skill to unravel the complex nuances of Austen’s language.... Liberty in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is a welcome and significant addition to Austen criticism, and it offers a degree of nuance in its readings that testifies not only to Austen’s skill at crafting the novel but also to the author’s ability to decode the multifarious and often complex meanings of Austen’s work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611462272
Publisher:
Lehigh University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2016
Pages:
194
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Kathryn E. Davis is assistant professor of English at the University of Dallas.

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