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Early Nineteenth-Century Readers of Jane Austen


Bautz, Annika (2007). Early Nineteenth-Century Readers of Jane Austen. Literature Compass, 4(5):1412-1427.

Abstract

Studies of the reception of a literary work have traditionally relied mainly on the evidence of printed reviews. However, reviewing is a public activity, and does not represent readers’ private opinions, especially in the case of novels because of their low status. Also, reviewing was a male-dominated field, so that it does not give conclusions to women's reactions to Austen's novels. This survey of informal comments made by early nineteenth-century male and female readers in diaries and letters reveals ways in which readers responded to Austen's texts. Among the social classes that could comment in writing, the remarks are by those readers who were driven to record their thoughts. Whether a passing observation, sincere criticism, a recommendation to get hold of and read a novel, a request to a publisher to send another Austen novel as soon as possible or instructions as to where to send it to, these comments show the active nature of private readers’ physical and textual engagement with Austen's novels.

Studies of the reception of a literary work have traditionally relied mainly on the evidence of printed reviews. However, reviewing is a public activity, and does not represent readers’ private opinions, especially in the case of novels because of their low status. Also, reviewing was a male-dominated field, so that it does not give conclusions to women's reactions to Austen's novels. This survey of informal comments made by early nineteenth-century male and female readers in diaries and letters reveals ways in which readers responded to Austen's texts. Among the social classes that could comment in writing, the remarks are by those readers who were driven to record their thoughts. Whether a passing observation, sincere criticism, a recommendation to get hold of and read a novel, a request to a publisher to send another Austen novel as soon as possible or instructions as to where to send it to, these comments show the active nature of private readers’ physical and textual engagement with Austen's novels.

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Additional indexing

Contributors:Editors: Elizabeth Fay and Sharon Ruston
Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:August 2007
Deposited On:29 Jun 2009 14:36
Last Modified:04 May 2016 11:37
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1741-4113
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1741-4113.2007.00489.x
Official URL:http://www.blackwell-compass.com/subject/literature/article_view?article_id=lico_articles_bpl489

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