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Jane Austen and the Price of Happiness

Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey

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Do Jane Austen novels truly celebrate—or undermine—romance and happy endings?

How did Jane Austen become a cultural icon for fairy-tale endings when her own books end in ways that are rushed, ironic, and reluctant to satisfy readers' thirst for romance? In Jane Austen and the Price of Happiness, Austen scholar Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey journeys through the iconic novelist's books in the first full-length study of Austen's endings. Through a careful exploration of Austen's own writings and those of the authors she read during her lifetime—as well as recent cultural reception and adaptations...

Do Jane Austen novels truly celebrate—or undermine—romance and happy endings?

How did Jane Austen become a cultural icon for fairy-tale endings when her own books end in ways that are rushed, ironic, and reluctant to satisfy readers' thirst for romance? In Jane Austen and the Price of Happiness, Austen scholar Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey journeys through the iconic novelist's books in the first full-length study of Austen's endings. Through a careful exploration of Austen's own writings and those of the authors she read during her lifetime—as well as recent cultural reception and adaptations of her novels—Brodey examines the contradictions that surround this queen of romance.

Brodey argues that Austen's surprising choices in her endings are an essential aspect of the writer's own sense of the novel and its purpose. Austen's fiercely independent and deeply humanistic ideals led her to develop a style of ending all her own. Writing in a culture that set a monetary value on success in marriage and equated matrimony with happiness, Austen questions these cultural norms and makes her readers work for their comic conclusions, carefully anticipating and shaping her readers' emotional involvement in her novels.

Providing innovative and engaging readings of Austen's novels, Jane Austen and the Price of Happiness traces her development as an author and her convictions about authorship, novels, and the purpose of domestic fiction. In a review of modern film adaptions of Austen's work, the book also offers new interpretations while illustrating how contemporary ideas of marriage and happiness have shaped Austen's popular currency in the Anglophone world and beyond.

Reviews

Reviews

Brodey's interpretations of Austen's writings are subtle and penetrating, and discussions of popular Austen film adaptations shed light on how Hollywood tramples over the novels' ambivalence. Austenites will want to take a look.

Jane Austen and the Price of Happiness examines the ambivalence embedded in Jane Austen's 'happy endings,' arguing that the novelist was resisting platitudes about marriage and favoring a more discerning, individualized understanding of happiness. Brodey writes with verve and clarity and draws judiciously on Austen criticism. Her book is savvy and insightful.

This accessible and lively book quizzes the seemingly tidy happily-ever-afters of Jane Austen's stories. Brodey's smart observations slide effortlessly back and forth between Austen's era and our own. Recommended for newly enlisted Janeites as well as perennial re-readers!

In this thoughtful and lively exploration of Austen's novels and their afterlives, Brodey is the first to investigate how the books' dismissive endings are self-conscious innovations—both artful and instructive. Brodey's nuanced readings illuminate the Janeite universe, teaching us to see a more complex (if imperfect) felicity.

From closely reading Jane Austen's marriage plots and their conclusions, Brodey radiates outward to consider literary antecedents, biographical contexts, and present-day adaptations. Never before have the social significances, emotional resonances, moral meanings, and philosophical underpinnings of Austen's notoriously problematic endings been so incisively explored and so convincingly explained.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
320
ISBN
9781421448206
Illustration Description
37 halftones, 4 line drawings
Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction. "Perfect Felicity"
1. Commonplace Happiness
2. Expecting Literary Justice
3. The Limits of Romance
4. The Thin Veil of Comedy
5. The Art of English Happiness
6. Resources for

List of Figures
Introduction. "Perfect Felicity"
1. Commonplace Happiness
2. Expecting Literary Justice
3. The Limits of Romance
4. The Thin Veil of Comedy
5. The Art of English Happiness
6. Resources for Solitude
Conclusion. Co-Authoring Happiness
Acknowledgements
Further Reading and Viewing
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey
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Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey

Inger Sigrun Bredkjær Brodey is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the cofounder and director of the Jane Austen Summer Program and Jane Austen & Co., and the principal investigator of Jane Austen's Desk.