Type of Document Thesis Author Brandeberry, Sarah Michelle Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-04072006-160516 Title The Figure of the Correcting Woman in Jane Austen: A Study of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Eric Walker Committee Chair Barry Faulk Committee Member James O'Rourke Committee Member Keywords
- Romantic and Victorian Women
- Women and Power
- Women's Studies
Date of Defense 2006-04-03 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe politics of Jane Austen’s novels have long been a topic of scholarly interest. Many scholars see Austen’s heroines as women embedded in the typical, conservative marriage plot while others see them as proto-feminist figures of intelligence and power. Her heroines have now become famous for their moral and intellectual lives, but many scholars argue that all of Austen’s heroines must be brought down through the correction of a superior male character in order to atone for their freedom of manner early in the novel and secure a suitable mate. In “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl,” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick identifies this as “the Girl Being Taught a Lesson” tradition of Austen scholarship.
In this thesis, I argue that the scene of the girl being taught a lesson is actually a cover for the more progressive correction that the heroine gives to her family, friends and, most importantly, her male counterpart. We see that these intelligent women do not need to be taught a lesson in order to correct flaws in their characters. On the contrary, these women correct themselves through careful self-analysis and self-correction and use their intelligence and knowledge to teach other characters. In my three chapters, I argue that Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Emma Woodhouse in Emma, and Anne Elliot in Persuasion act as moral centers in these Austen novels. We see particular emphasis on these women’s corrections of the male characters in Elizabeth’s continual correction of Mr. Darcy, particularly in her rebuff of his proposal, in Emma’s correcting Mr. Knightley’s opinions of Harriet Smith and in teaching him to respect her impressive intellect, and in Anne’s teaching Captain Wentworth to respect her decision to give him up and to acknowledge, once again, her superior sense, intellect and moral character. These women are not contained by marriage; instead, they teach their male counterparts before marriage and show that they will continue these lessons after their respective unions. I show that these three heroines teach and correct those around them, offering a new perspective on female intellectual work and its importance within marriage and in improving society, one character at a time.
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