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Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death
Cambridge University Press is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, one of England's finest and most famous authors. Over the Summer we will be giving away free chapters from some of the most prestigious Austen scholarship. Browse our free extracts below.
You can also get 20% offf select books on Jane Austen for a limited time only. Click here to explore all of our discounted Austen books
Browse and enjoy free chapters from our highlight Austen books below:
Jane Austen's Emma, now her most admired novel, is also her most experimental. In composing as well as in publishing it, Austen took risks. Her decision to shift from Thomas Egerton, who specialised in military printing, to the eminent John Murray II as publisher for Emma is a remarkable move in itself within the literary marketplace of her time, but its daring is echoed also by the professional choices Austen made in composing the novel.
Jane Austen is one of the great writers of English literature because no reader and no period exhausts her books. Something always escapes from a reading while every reading enriches. Like the town of Lyme in Persuasion, the novels 'must be visited, and visited again'. In this respect the comparison with William Shakespeare, often made in the mid- to late nineteenth century, is apt. She shares with him, too, a rare crossover appeal, achieving both academic and popular status: the object of scholarly analysis and cult enthusiasm.
It is the role of criticism and scholarship to equip the modern, the twenty-first century, re-reader with the information and understanding that enables him or her to give Austen's novels the attention they ask for. 'Readers today need to recognize that Mansfield Park is consciously set in the post-abolition period', Peter Knox-Shaw states correctly, for example, though, as he also notes, enduring commentary on the novel has been written in ignorance of this.
It is now more than thirty years since I started to research the life and times of Jane Austen, investigating many hitherto unnoticed manuscripts in both public and private collections. This research enabled me to compile a card index of some 15,000 documented facts concerning the Austen family and their contemporary friends and neighbours. All the most important information so gathered went into the composition of my biography Jane Austen, a Family Record, published in 1989, and also provided the basis of the biographical and topographical notes to my edition of Jane Austen's Letters in 1995 ... Even though Family Record has been published, I felt reluctant to throw away the card index which had taken me so long to compile, and so decided instead to publish the contents purely as a chronology that could be used as a reference text by other writers.
This book is about how family relationships were represented in eighteenth-century English fiction and what those representations tell us about changes in actual families in that period. My argument moves between literature and history: literary texts provide the insights about how the conception of ''family'' changed in eighteenth-century England and the strain that put on existing relationships. History provides the causal or correlative explanations for the social and psychological phenomena that literature reveals.
Biographical information on Austen is famously scarce. Most people who read the novels know that she was a clergyman’s daughter who grew up in a country parsonage with several brothers and one beloved sister, that she never married and that she died relatively young. They may know that she was born in 1775 (16 December), in tandem with the revolutionary end of the eighteenth century, and did not publish a novel until 1811, six years before her death in a more conservative period.
A source novel and film can echo back and forth in a satisfying way, their intertextual relationship reminding us of virtues in each medium that might remain unnoticed otherwise. The intimacy of Austen's narrative voice and of our recreation of her characters in the private theaters of our minds are not necessarily violated by seeing the collaborative visions of talented artists on screen: their Jane Austen may not be ours, but may speak to us nevertheless.
These recent adaptations, transcodings and appropriations of Jane Austen's original novels form one subject of this book, for they are instances of a more general phenomenon, the fantasies which surround the name of 'Jane Austen'. The transformations of Jane Austen's novels into several television productions and films which by general consent are more substantial and interesting than previous versions has already led to at least two critical collecitons and a great number of papers and commentaries ... Jane Austen then is a signifier with multiple meanings. The films, for their own ends, artistic or commercial, rewrite the texts on which they are based, and, because of the power of the medium ... form part of the meaning that 'Jane Austen' now has.
Interview with Professor Janet Todd
Devoney Looser on the award winning Cambridge Companion to Women's Writing in the Romantic Period
FROM THE BLOG
A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family 1600 – 2000
It was in the 1970s, in the course of some local history research in the London Borough of Camden, that I discovered quite by chance a grave in the old churchyard of St-John-at-Hampstead, in which Jane Austen’s aunt Mrs Hancock was buried together w…