"Austen may or may not have been conservative. Certainly she wrote novels conservatives could read without distress, which have waited for modern critics to reveal their profound radical awareness of the female bondage inherent in that conservative world."
The above is from Carolyn Heilbrun's review of The Life of Jane Austen by John Halperin in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Winter, 1986), pp. 183-185. In that one nutshell, Heilbrun resolves the paradox--indeed JA wrote novels that conservatives could see themselves in, but also wrote novels that radical feminists could also see themselves in. And Heilbrun also unmasks Halperin's cluelessness about JA and her attitude toward marriage.
Also, I just read, and will be returning to, a marvelously poetic, drily playful, challenging (in some places, I must admit, a little over my head), provocative article by the poet/novelist Harold Brodkey, entitled:
“Henry James and Jane Austen” The Threepenny Review, No. 33 (Spring, 1988), pp. 3-7
It is more about Austen than James, and there are way too many interesting lines in Brodkey's article to quote any in particular. Suffice to say that it is the most sophisticated sort of praise for JA's literary artistry, attributing to her both great knowledge of the literature written prior to her, and also deservedly great influence over the literature written after her, including, but not limited to, Henry James, Leo Tolstoy and James Joyce. A great deal of food for thought, written in the most extraordinarily crafted prose literary criticism ever was written in. A word genius's profound appreciation for, and analysis of, an earlier genius of words.
An Elegant Block-Printed Cotton Gown, c1805
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