Portal:Jane Austen

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Introduction

Watercolour-and-pencil portrait of Jane Austen

Jane Austen (/ˈɒstɪn, ˈɔːs-/; 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.

With the publications of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, a short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.

Selected article

The reception history of Jane Austen follows a path from modest fame to wild popularity; her novels are both the subject of intense scholarly study and the centre of a diverse fan culture. Jane Austen, the author of such works as Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), has become one of the best-known and widely read novelists in the English language.

During her lifetime, Austen's novels brought her little personal fame; like many women writers, she chose to publish anonymously and it was only among members of the aristocracy that her authorship was an open secret. At the time they were published, Austen's works were considered fashionable by members of high society but received few positive reviews. By the mid-19th century, her novels were admired by members of the literary elite who viewed their appreciation of her works as a mark of cultivation. The publication in 1870 of her nephew's Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public as an appealing personality—dear, quiet aunt Jane—and her works were republished in popular editions. By the turn of the 20th century, competing groups had sprung up—some to worship her and some to defend her from the "teeming masses"—but all claiming to be the true Janeites, or those who properly appreciated Austen. (more...)

Selected biography

Fanny Price is the heroine in Jane Austen's 1814 novel Mansfield Park. Austen describes Fanny Price as "extremely timid and shy, shrinking from notice", and repeatedly reinforces that Fanny is shy, timid, and afraid of everyone and everything.

Fanny is the eldest daughter of an obscure and poor retired Marine lieutenant in Portsmouth, who is father to eight other children. Fanny's mother's sisters, the wealthy Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris, offer to take her in and bring her up at Sir Thomas Bertram's estate, Mansfield Park in Northamptonshire. Upon her first arriving in Mansfield, she is intimidated by her new home and her cousins (Thomas, Edmund, Maria and Julia), and is very homesick. None of her cousins are very obliging to her except Edmund, the younger son, who befriends her and helps her adapt to her new life. Mrs Norris, who prefers her richer cousins, constantly emphasises her inferiority, while Fanny's female cousins make fun of her apparent ignorance. As she grows, she finds Edmund to be a considerate companion and confidante, and she also becomes attracted to him. (more...)

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