From the first publication of Pride and Prejudice to recent film versions of her life and work, Jane Austen continues to inspire fantasies of peculiar intimacy and provoke enthusiasm and debate. Celebrated in the nineteenth century for her realism and patrician gentility, condemned by some second-wave feminists but adored by others, imagined now as politically conservative and then as subversively satirical, Austen generates passions shaped by ideologies and trends—as well as by her own memorable stories, characters, and elusive, perennially cool tone.
In this book, Rachel M. Brownstein considers Jane Austen as heroine, moralist, satirist, romantic, woman, and author, along with the changing notions of these categories over time and texts. She finds echoes of many of Austen's insights and techniques in contemporary Jane-o-mania, a commercially driven, erotically charged popular vogue that aims to preserve and liberate, correct and collaborate with old Jane. Brownstein's brilliant discussion of the distinctiveness and distinction of the novelist's genius clarifies the reasons why we read Jane Austen—or why we should read her—and reorients the prevailing view of her work. Reclaiming the rich comedy of Austen while building a new narrative of authorship, Brownstein unpacks the novelist's fascinating entanglement with her readers and admirers.