Year

1995

Degree Name

Honours Masters of Arts by Research

Department

Department of English - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

This project examines four of Jane Austen's novels, focusing on narrative technique that positions readers to experience ethical dilemmas similar to those which serve to educate the heroines. Jane Austen's texts explore the epistemological issues of how subjectivity and imagination distort perception. Of particular importance is the communication process. Attention to language in all of its forms suggests Austen's acute awareness of the linguistic nature of human experience. Because Austen valued honesty and integrity, her texts demonstrate the necessity of cultivating these qualities to achieve enriching, intimate relationships. Language becomes the means through which characters are able to evaluate each other and to discover 'truth'. While the characters in the novels gain understanding, readers are similarly instructed because the narrative positions readers to become intimates of the characters. Since novels selectively create a textual reality, they become examples of the problems they raise. Characters and readers are taught to value compassion, and to maintain a generous, open-minded attitude in relating to each other. Narrative technique and reader response in Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion, indicate that as Austen's skill developed, her narrative manipulations of reader response gained subtlety. While readers may be aware of the education process occurring within the text, Austen's creation of a mirroring experience for readers may be overlooked.

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