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"Jane Austen's stock in the popular marketplace has never been higher, while academic studies continue to uncover new aspects of her engagement with her world. This fully updated edition of the acclaimed Cambridge Companion offers clear, accessible coverage of the intricacies of Austen's works in their historical context, with biographical information and suggestions for further reading. Major scholars address Austen's six novels, the letters and other works, in terms accessible to students and the many general readers, as well as to academics. With seven new essays, the Companion now covers topics that have become central to recent Austen studies, for example, gender, sociability, economics, and the increasing number of screen adaptations of the novels"--"The image that Henry Austen creates - at odds with the evidence that both Austen's letters and her publishing decisions offer of her professionalism - is precisely the one that so annoyed Henry James, according to Brian Southam: 'the myth of the inspired amateur, the homely spinster who put down her knitting needles to take up her pen'. That myth, and others like it, have prevented subsequent readers from understanding that, for Austen, being a professional writer was, apart from her family, more important to her than anything else in her life. Austen wrote when opportunities for women to publish had never been greater, and from her childhood her aim was to see her works in print. She collected her juvenilia in volumes made to resemble published books as closely as possible"--
In the early nineteenth century there was a sudden vogue for novels centering on the glamour of aristocratic social and political life. Such novels, attractive as they were to middle-class readers, were condemned by contemporary critics as dangerously seductive, crassly commercial, designed for the 'masses' and utterly unworthy of regard. Until recently, silver-fork novels have eluded serious consideration and been overshadowed by authors such as Jane Austen. They were influenced by Austen at their very deepest levels, but were paradoxically drummed out of history by the very canon-makers who were using Austen's name to establish their own legitimacy. This first modern full-length study of the silver-fork novel argues that these novels were in fact tools of persuasion, novels deliberately aimed at bringing the British middle classes into an alliance with an aristocratic program of political reform.
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