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Author Raff, Sarah
Title Erotics of instruction: Jane Austen and the generalizing novel
book jacket
Descript 449 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 65-03, Section: A, page: 0946
Director: Peter Brooks
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Yale University, 2004
Hounded by complaints that they seduced their readers, British novelists of the eighteenth century called attention to the instructive potential of fiction by packing their works with generalizations. Novelists hoped to convince their detractors that the pedagogical efficacy of their broadly applicable statements guaranteed the chastity of their relation with the reader. However, eighteenth-century literary culture so thoroughly eroticized the act of instructing that generalizations, the very speech-acts meant to attest to the novel's sexual neutrality, were readable as seductive overtures. As Austen's novels rebelliously suggest, didacticism is a mode of seduction
The exorbitant devotion Austen inspires in her readers has emerged as the central mystery of her reception. This study ascribes this devotion to the success with which her novels exploit erotic possibilities both inherent in the act of generalizing and linked to it through eighteenth-century novel theory. I begin by arguing that through sententious claims to knowledge, Austen's generalizing narrators offer themselves as objects for the reader s transference. Chapter One explores the ostensibly distinct but in fact mutually constitutive figurations of the novel as seducer and guide that dominated eighteenth-century debates about quixotism and didacticism. Subsequent chapters describe how Austen's novels figure their relation with the reader
The narrator of Northanger Abbey flouts didactic ideology by advertising her aim to seduce and inspire quixotism in her reader. While eighteenth-century literary theory distinguished between the seductive novel that infects its reader with quixotism and the orthodox novel that teaches chaste lessons of general opinion, Northanger Abbey suggests that orthodox novels are themselves responsible for literary seduction and its most visible symptom, quixotism. Austen's attack on general opinion goes underground in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, where orthodox lessons are subversively associated with sexual transgression and the mere appearance of consensus. In Mansfield Park and its Victorian successors, didactic authorship is presented as an incestuous mode of guardianship. Each of Austen's novels allegorizes the relation between novel and reader through its primary courtship plot. To varying degrees, each anticipates Austen's reception by claiming intellectual and erotic mastery over the smitten reader
School code: 0265
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 65-03A
Subject Literature, English
Literature, Comparative
Alt Author Yale University
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