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Interest in Jane Austen has never been greater, but it is revitalized by the advent of feminist literary history. In a substantial new introduction Marilyn Butler places this book, which was first published in 1975, within the larger tradition of post-war criticism, from the generation of Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, and F.R. Leavis to that of the now-dominant feminist critics. Professor Butler argues that Austen herself lived in contentious times. Like Wordsworth and Coleridge, she served her literary apprenticeship in the 1790s, the decade of the Terror and the Napoleonic Wars, an era in England of polemic and hysteria. Political partisanship shaped the novel of her youth, in content, form, and style. In this book, she now examines the very different schools of writing about Austen, and finds in them some unexpected continuities, such as a willingness to recruit her to modern aims, but a reluctance to engage with her own history. When the book first came out it attracted attention for its fresh, controversial approach to ideas on Austen. The new edition shows how the arrival of feminism has made the task of the literary historian more vital and challenging than ever.
'Marilyn Butler has written a deeply provoking, exciting book.' New Statesman 'There can be no doubt of the immense value for the critical reader of this impressive exposition of conflicting views concerning the individual and society at the end of the eighteenth century.' Review of English Studies 'interesting, knowledgeable, and controversial.' Times Higher Education Supplement.