Jane Austen and the Enlightenment /

"Peter Knox-Shaw argues that Austen was a writer steeped in the Enlightenment, and that her allegiance to a sceptical tradition within it, shaped by figures such as Adam Smith and David Hume, lasted throughout her career. Know-Shaw draws on archival and other neglected sources to reconstruct th...

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Main Author: Knox-Shaw, Peter, 1944- (Author)
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2004.
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Review by Choice Review

Marilyn Butler, author of the landmark Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (CH, Mar'76), has argued that Austen was a socially conservative, anti-sentimental Christian. Knox-Shaw (Univ. of Cape Town, South Africa, and author of The Explorer in English Fiction, CH, Apr'87) challenges Butler's findings, presenting Austen as a liberal believer and Enlightenment thinker imbued with a healthy skepticism and an interest in seeing British society reformed within the status quo. Drawing on unpublished writings by Austen's family members and on the influential ideological writers of her day (especially Adam Smith and David Hume), Knox-Shaw examines Austen's innovative novels, letters, juvenilia, and unfinished works in the order that they were written. He convincingly demonstrates that Austen shaped her works as progressive, even-handed examinations of the great issues of her time, e.g., Napoleonic Wars, the evangelical revival, slavery, economic speculation, women's rights, and class. Though Knox-Shaw's often-difficult writing style and references to highfalutin texts will render it inaccessible to some readers, this well-researched book will be a boon for those who have assimilated the work of Austen scholars Butler, Janet Todd, and Claudia Johnson. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. M. E. DiPaolo Alvernia College

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