Subject Area

Women and Gender Studies

Abstract

Jane Austen’s Heroines--and Some Others

Jane Austen is the earliest English novelist whose novels are still widely read today; in fact, they are becoming more popular all the time.

Of course, there are good reasons for this popularity. Apart from Austen’s creation of unforgettable characters, and her exquisite irony and sense of humor, there is one other thing I’d like to discuss today: her heroines could be called, in a sense, brilliant (and often unorthodox) adaptations of universally recognized types. For example, Elizabeth Bennet is so remarkable a character because she is, at the same time, a sort of Cinderella and a sort of anti-Cinderella, just as her Prince Charming is also anti-Prince Charming. In other words, Austen deals with types and plots that were old even in her time, but she gives them certain ingenious twists.

There are, however, other women novelists that deserve to be read today. Austen herself read and admired their works, and was influenced by them in her own fiction. I would like to speak about several novels (most of them written before Austen’s) that I have found especially interesting, all of them written by women. Not surprisingly, the main characters in these novels are always young women, and it is noteworthy that occasionally their authors are not afraid to display certain “feminist” tendencies. Moreover, their heroines are, on the whole, neither passive nor idealized. Women authors present female characters objectively: they are not flawless, but they have intelligence and strength of will.

Brief Bio Note

Neda Helena Jeny was born in Croatia, and came to the United States for graduate study. She has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois, and the M.A. in Classics from Johns Hopkins University. She has taught literature and Latin at college and school level. At present she teaches Latin at Savannah Classical Academy.

Keywords

Jane Austen, Novels, Heroines, Types, Feminism

Location

Room 218

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-26-2015 3:00 PM

End Date

3-26-2015 4:15 PM

Embargo

2015

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Mar 26th, 3:00 PM Mar 26th, 4:15 PM

Jane Austen's Heroines--And Some Others

Room 218

Jane Austen’s Heroines--and Some Others

Jane Austen is the earliest English novelist whose novels are still widely read today; in fact, they are becoming more popular all the time.

Of course, there are good reasons for this popularity. Apart from Austen’s creation of unforgettable characters, and her exquisite irony and sense of humor, there is one other thing I’d like to discuss today: her heroines could be called, in a sense, brilliant (and often unorthodox) adaptations of universally recognized types. For example, Elizabeth Bennet is so remarkable a character because she is, at the same time, a sort of Cinderella and a sort of anti-Cinderella, just as her Prince Charming is also anti-Prince Charming. In other words, Austen deals with types and plots that were old even in her time, but she gives them certain ingenious twists.

There are, however, other women novelists that deserve to be read today. Austen herself read and admired their works, and was influenced by them in her own fiction. I would like to speak about several novels (most of them written before Austen’s) that I have found especially interesting, all of them written by women. Not surprisingly, the main characters in these novels are always young women, and it is noteworthy that occasionally their authors are not afraid to display certain “feminist” tendencies. Moreover, their heroines are, on the whole, neither passive nor idealized. Women authors present female characters objectively: they are not flawless, but they have intelligence and strength of will.