Jane Austen's Names: Riddles, Persons, Places

Paperback | October 17, 2016

byMargaret Doody

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In Jane Austen’s works, a name is never just a name. In fact, the names Austen gives her characters and places are as rich in subtle meaning as her prose itself. Wiltshire, for example, the home county of Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, is a clue that this heroine is not as stupid as she seems: according to legend, cunning Wiltshire residents caught hiding contraband in a pond capitalized on a reputation for ignorance by claiming they were digging up a “big cheese”—the moon’s reflection on the water’s surface. It worked.

In Jane Austen’s Names, Margaret Doody offers a fascinating and comprehensive study of all the names of people and places—real and imaginary—in Austen’s fiction. Austen’s creative choice of names reveals not only her virtuosic talent for riddles and puns. Her names also pick up deep stories from English history, especially the various civil wars, and the blood-tinged differences that played out in the reign of Henry VIII, a period to which she often returns. Considering the major novels alongside unfinished works and juvenilia, Doody shows how Austen’s names signal class tensions as well as regional, ethnic, and religious differences. We gain a new understanding of Austen’s technique of creative anachronism, which plays with and against her skillfully deployed realism—in her books, the conflicts of the past swirl into the tensions of the present, transporting readers beyond the Regency.

Full of insight and surprises for even the most devoted Janeite, Jane Austen’s Names will revolutionize how we read Austen’s fiction.

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In Jane Austen’s works, a name is never just a name. In fact, the names Austen gives her characters and places are as rich in subtle meaning as her prose itself. Wiltshire, for example, the home county of Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, is a clue that this heroine is not as stupid as she seems: according to legend, cunning Wilts...

Margaret Doody is the John and Barbara Glynn Family Professor of Literature at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of many books, including the Aristotle Detective series, the first three of which are available from the University of Chicago Press.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:440 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:October 17, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022641910X

ISBN - 13:9780226419107

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Acknowledgments
A Note on Texts

Part I. England

Chapter 1. Words, Names, Persons, and Places
Chapter 2. Names as History: Invasion, Migration, War, and Conflict
Chapter 3. Civil War, Ruins, and the Conscience of the Rich

Part II. Names

Chapter 4. Naming People: First Names, Nicknames, Titles, and Rank
Chapter 5. Titles, Status, and Surnames: Austen’s Great Surname Matrix
Chapter 6. Personal Names (First Names and Surnames) in the “Steventon” Novels
Chapter 7. Personal Names in the “Chawton” Novels

Part III. Places

Chapter 8. Humans Making and Naming a Landscape
Chapter 9. Placing the Places
Chapter 10. Counties, Towns, Villages, Estates: Real and Imaginary Places in the “Steventon” Novels
Chapter 11. Real and Imaginary Places in the “Chawton” Novels
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Doody draws on a prodigious array of literary, geographical, historical, and linguistic information to figure out what the names of people and places in Jane Austen actually mean. With characteristic energy and curiosity, she links Austen’s riddling allusions to larger worlds, even to the movements of time itself.”