Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing

First Advisor

Matheson, Suzanne

Keywords

book history, gender, Jane Austen, libraries, reading practices, women's reading

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

This multi-disciplinary study of reading in Austen's Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice investigates the relationships of people, books, and ways of reading as represented in these books, placing them in the context of reading practices in Austen's time. The first chapter examines reading materials and reading spaces in Austen's period, showing how Austen's representation of books and libraries reveals character and social expectations. Chapter Two focuses on the reading practices of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, arguing that the way characters read sheds light on their social interactions. The performative aspect of reading, particularly reading aloud, is analyzed in Chapter Three, which compares the period's elocutionary, theatrical, and religious modes of performance. The final chapter expands the implications of reading and gender, linking the period's ideas of women's reading to Austen's representations of female readers. Reading enables Austen's heroines to interpret their worlds with greater accuracy and assurance.

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