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Why Jane Austen?$
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Rachel Brownstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153911

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153911.001.0001

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Why We Reread Jane Austen

Why We Reread Jane Austen

(p.195) Chapter 5 Why We Reread Jane Austen
Why Jane Austen?

Rachel M. Brownstein

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses Jane Austen as a writer. In a linguistically poorer time, Austen's insistence on care with language is easily misread as school-marmish stress on correctness for its own sake, or as an equally old-fashioned emphasis on mannerliness and lack of profanity. But her care for language is neither only aesthetic nor merely moral, in the contemporary sense that signifies high-minded opposition to blasphemous or sexually explicit language. Writing as a perfect lady liberated Austen from the constraints of being one. Her language is principled and precise, respectful of the fact that both thought and feeling are intrinsic to their expression: she is a moral writer, but she does not moralize. Her novels insist on the importance of details, and she usefully reminds one to pay attention to both the details of living and the words one use.

Keywords:   Jane Austen, language, profanity, thought, feeling, details

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