Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

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9781421406404: Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

In Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas makes the bold assertion that Jane Austen’s novels allude to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates. Barchas is the first scholar to conduct extensive research into the names and locations in Austen’s fiction by taking full advantage of the explosion of archival materials now available online.

According to Barchas, Austen plays confidently with the tension between truth and invention that characterizes the realist novel. Of course, the argument that Austen deployed famous names presupposes an active celebrity culture during the Regency, a phenomenon recently accepted by scholars. The names Austen plucks from history for her protagonists (Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Tilney, Fitzwilliam, and many more) were immensely famous in her day. She seems to bank upon this familiarity for interpretive effect, often upending associations with comic intent.

Barchas re-situates Austen’s work closer to the historical novels of her contemporary Sir Walter Scott and away from the domestic and biographical perspectives that until recently have dominated Austen studies. This forward-thinking and revealing investigation offers scholars and ardent fans of Jane Austen a wealth of historical facts, while shedding an interpretive light on a new aspect of the beloved writer's work.

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Book Description:

Discover the links between characters in Jane Austen novels and real-life celebrities of the time.

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In Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas makes the bold assertion that Jane Austen’s novels allude to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates.

According to Barchas, Austen plays confidently with the tension between truth and invention that characterizes the realist novel. The names Austen plucks from history for her protagonists (Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Tilney, Fitzwilliam, and many more) were immensely famous in her day. She seems to bank upon this familiarity for interpretive effect, often upending associations with comic intent.

"This is easily one of the most important books on Austen published in recent years, a must read. Thanks to fantastic volumes like this one... Austen's books are finally being read and reassessed in the context of their times and are no longer given the backhanded compliment of being called 'timeless'... Essential."— Choice

"Matters of Fact in Jane Austen is unlike any previous work of Austen criticism, both in its attention to minute historical detail and in its pioneering claims... Matters of Fact in Jane Austen is meticulously researched, beautifully written, highly original, and unquestionably timely. It ought to stimulate not just rousing arguments but provoke, too, further historically attuned Austen scholarship."— Los Angeles Review of Books

"This is a book whose charm and clarity easily overcome any initial resistance one might have to its central claim that Austen’s work actively partakes in what historians now call 'celebrity culture'... One of Barchas’s most surprising—and ultimately convincing—claims is that Austen, like James Joyce after her, 'not only names her fictional characters with uncanny historical precision but maps them with equal care through historical settings'. She illustrates this with careful attention to Austen’s own historical reading and letters, prints of contemporary maps, portraits and country houses."— Times Literary Supplement

"An excellent example of a truly interdisciplinary approach to literary criticism."— Review of English Studies

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Barchas, Janine
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press (2012)
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