Literary Culture Inside and Outside Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”

By Bridget Kies.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Throughout Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” characters instruct each other, and the third-person narrator instructs the reader, as to the proper social behavior in the various situations depicted. Most notably, Austen subverts the formula of the nineteenth century conduct book to advocate the importance of reading novels at a time when novels were often considered undesirable or dangerous. For both the characters in “Pride and Prejudice” and readers of it, a particular kind of reading and writing becomes a means to achieving greater social status. Given that the middle-class readership was expanding in Austen’s time, and given the number of characters in the novel who are on the brink of upward or downward mobility, I argue that Austen’s prescriptive approach to literary culture is a way of offering a chance at social and economic salvation. By using a novel as a means for this prescription and by celebrating the culture of novel-reading within the story, Austen subverts the conduct book formula to include a kind of literature previously considered undesirable and lays out a recipe for literary culture that persists today in new, online discursive practices.

Keywords: Jane Austen, Readers, Literary Culture

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp.27-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 246.513KB).

Bridget Kies

Graduate Student, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Bridget Kies is currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After receiving her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media from Columbia College Chicago in 2006, she taught film and humanities at Valparaiso University for five years. She has presented conference papers on fan fiction and homosociality and has published an article for the peer-reviewed journal Transformative Works and Cultures. The primary scope of her research is gender and sexuality in television and fandom.

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