Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

From weakness to wisdom : Jane Austen transforms the female of sensibility tradition Public Deposited

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  • The eighteenth-century female of sensibility was characterized by delicate nerves that allowed her to feel her surroundings and enabled her to choose virtue over vice more consistently than males. While females were considered virtuous, their "innate" delicacy or weakness became their dominant trait and the true focus of male admiration. Although critics have already observed that Jane Austen's novels work against this idealization of feminine weakness, not one has recognized exactly how Austen transforms the female of sensibility tradition. Austen dissociates a female's delicacy from her virtue, making the primary source of virtue intellect and, in doing so, relocates male desire on to a female's inner self. Her novels work in progression to achieve this goal. Sense and Sensibility exposes delicacy's negative effects. Subsequent novels transform the sensibility tradition using two strategies. In Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, several relationships demonstrate the different ways a dissociation and relocation can occur. Emma and Persuasion employ the second strategy: the problem of illusion. The existence of a weak female as attractive proves only to be delusive and is ultimately rejected by the novels' characters and readers. Hence, these five novels progressively use not only male and female interactions but characters' and readers' perceptions to eliminate the idea of feminine weakness in Austen's fictional world.
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