Date of Award

Summer 7-28-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MA English

Department

English

Advisor

Dr. Karen Gevirtz

Committee Member

Dr. Jonathan Farina

Keywords

Jane Austen, Romanticism, self, social self, Persuasion

Abstract

This paper focuses on Austen's novel Persuasion and how she rejects the Romantic notion of the self defined by individualism, which leads to the breakdown of society. Instead of the Romantic self, with its emphasis on self-examination, retrospection, and emotion, Austen advocates for an older notion of the self, a view based in eighteenth-century notions of social networks, mutual responsibility, and the moral function of emotion. Persuasion links Romanticism’s self, which was popular at the time that Austen was writing, with the breakdown of society, arguing that not just social stability but much-needed social vitality depends on the interdependence and outward-looking self of early sensibility and sentimental fiction. Austen is aware of the way in which the self can break down or build a society and she uses Persuasion to criticize the way in which the Romantic self contributes to the destruction of society and to propose an alternative to the Romantic self—the social self.

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