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'The Novelist of Home: Silence and the Theorisation of Domesticity in Jane Austen's Fiction

Stanley, Kerry (2018) 'The Novelist of Home: Silence and the Theorisation of Domesticity in Jane Austen's Fiction. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:66697)

Abstract

This thesis offers a re-examination of the nearly two-centuries-old idea that Jane Austen is 'the novelist of home'. How, it asks, can we reconcile the seemingly opposing notions of Austen's famed insular focus on domestic life, with its corresponding restraints upon women, and her clearly non-conservative gender politics?

In depicting the lives of young women, Austen by and large excludes matters which were deemed 'unfeminine' or belonging to the public and 'masculine' world from her fiction. Topics such as sexuality and politics might then be considered silences in her novels. This apparent refusal to discuss these subjects was not, however, a sign of Austen's endorsement of the ideal of withdrawn and private female life set out within conservative conduct literature. Instead, I argue, in her isolated focus on domesticity Austen provides forensic studies of the conditions of home life for middle-class women and their psychological impact. Her silences, therefore, are tools used to recreate the state of disconnection in which women exist under the influence of contemporary domestic ideology. In each of her novels, Austen criticises that confinement to, and an education that prepares women for, a life solely in the domestic realm harmfully limits the scope of their knowledge, development and ultimately selfhood.

Offering a theorisation of domesticity that develops over the course of her career, Austen set herself apart from her forerunners and contemporaries in domestic fiction. In adapting the novel according to this enterprise of reconceiving domesticity, Austen moreover reimagines the novel itself.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Batchelor, Jennie
Thesis advisor: Gilmore-Kavanagh, Declan
Uncontrolled keywords: English literature Jane Austen domesticity domestic ideology confinement feminism the novel politics eighteenth-century nineteenth-century women
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2018 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2020 14:40 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/66697 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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