MOSAIC - Studien und Texte zur amerikanischen Kultur und Geschichte, Band 7
Anne-Marie Scholz:
'An Orgy of Propriety'
Jane Austen and the Emergence and Legacy
of the Female Author in America, 1826 - 1926 

Far from being "one of the great anomalies of literary history," Jane Austen's inclusion and high status in the western literary canon was directly related to the definition of her work as essentially female, that is, essentially personal and private in nature. This study examines the ways Austen's most distinguished nineteenth-century American readers, including Chief Justice John Marshall, Joseph Story, Henry James and William Dean Howelis, used her work to reconfigure the western literary canon so as to contain and domesticate the authority of the female author, a reconfiguration that would definitively influence not only the ways in which Austen's works were read, but also the ways most women writers with literary aspirations would be defined. While recent feminist literary critics have focused upon the western canon's exclusion of women writers, the principles of inclusion have not been a central focus. Yet it was precisely those principles of inclusion that radically limited the literary authority of the female author, making her status as an artist dependent upon her authority over private, domestic matters exclusively, that is, her gender. Yet significantly, alternative principles of inclusion coexisted alongside the major tradition, testifying above all to the ways Austen's canonical status has always served as a crucial site of public contestation over the evolving relationship between gender and art.

ISBN 3-88476-370-9, 183 S., kt., € 22,00 (1999)

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