The reputation of Jane Austen in the twentieth century with an annotated enumerative bibliography of Austen criticism from 1811 to June, 1957
Link, Frederick M
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The major portion of Part One of the dissertation is a study of the reputation of Jane Austen in the twentieth century. The study is based on an analysis of the books and articles on the subject which appeared between 1913 and June of 1957, and is prefaced by an introduction and a chapter discussing investigations of the novelist's reputation in the nineteenth century (1811-1913). Chapter Two studies the period from 1913 to 1932; Chapter Three, the gradual development of modern criticism of the novels (1933-1948); and Chapter Four, the most recent contributions to the tradition (1949-1957). The final chapter of Part One is a summary. The initial reception of Miss Austen's novels was favorable, but her reputation seems to have declined after her death: many prominent literary figures of succeeding decades expressed their high opinion of her work, but very few critical or biographical articles, and relatively few editions and reprints of the novels, appeared before 1870. The publication of J. E. Austen-Leigh's Memoir in that year, and of Lord Brabourne's edition of the letters in 1882, were both causes and results of a gradual revival of interest; a revival which led to Miss Austen's being acclaimed as the finest domestic novelist and realist among English novelists, and culminated in the "official" biography of 1913. The years from 1913 to 1932 saw the publication of Robert W. Chapman's editions of the novels, juvenilia, and letters; the bibliographies of Geoffrey Keynes (1929) and others; and numerous books and articles combining a nineteenth-century type of criticism with biography drawn largely from previously published sources. With a few notable exceptions, the criticism may be subsumed under two headings--reviews of and comments on books, articles, and editions; and generally "appreciative" studies of plot, characterization, realism, and humor. One nevertheless discerns in scattered discussions the beginnings of a more thorough and penetrating evaluation of Miss Austen's achievement: the increasing interest in the ontology of art and in the methodology of literary criticism, together with the rising status of the novel, seem in part responsible. In the next period (1933-1948), the conventional criticism of the novels continues (in more modern dress), but is overshadowed by a gradual revaluation of the tradition. Studies of Miss Austen's themes, style, techniques, and artistic development appear with some frequency, and present the interested reader with a body of criticism which substantially contributes to his understanding both of the artistic significance of the novels and of the novel as an art form. Recent criticism (1949-1957) has been increasingly concentrated into academic environments: most of the important studies are dissertations or books and articles based on dissertations. The revaluation continues, and there are signs of an interpretation of Miss Austen's work which balances the virtues of the older criticism with the best insights of the new. At the extremes are the conventional Janeite sentimentalities and the radical, often socio-economic, interpretations of recent years. Part Two of the dissertation lists and annotates, subject to stated limitations, the critical and biographical studies of Jane Austen and her works which have appeared from 1811 through June of 1957. The work was done in an attempt to supplement the inadequate listings in the bibliographies of Keynes (1929) and Chapman (1953), and to provide the scholar with a substantial critical bibliography for further research. The entries are arranged alphabetically by year; the annotation evaluates all items according to their critical or historical importance, and summarizes the significant contributions to the tradition.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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