By assessing what was original in Jane Austen's fictional technique in the context of the history of the novel, Robert Miles takes a fresh look at how Austen came to be constructed as a model of Englishness. For many readers Jane Austen is the quintessential English author. Jane Austen sets out to explore the history of this identification with Englishness in the context of a tradition of criticism that has frequently tried to achieve the reverse: to establish her difference, and distance, from 'us'. Rather than simply showing how Austen differs from the heritage, Jane Austen argues that many of the reasons for her construction as an English cultural icon are to found in the works formal qualities, and often in her most innovative techniques. After a review of her reception as an 'English' author, and the salient critical attempts to render her 'strange', Jane Austen moves on to consider the achievement of personality in Austin's fiction; her creative use of comic structures; her development of the novel of education; her constant balance between 'realism' and the pastoral, novel and romance; and her sophisticated, and, to an extent, novel use of free indirect speech.
Robert Miles is a Professor of English at Sheffield Hallam University. He is the author of many publications including Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress (MUP, 1995.) and Gothic Writing 1750-1820: A Genealogy (Routledge, 1993)