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Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Worldly Realism$
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Pam Morris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474419130

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474419130.001.0001

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Emma: A Prospect of England

Emma: A Prospect of England

(p.83) Chapter 3 Emma: A Prospect of England
Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Worldly Realism

Pam Morris

Edinburgh University Press

In Emma, as in Sense and Sensibility, the plot tracks the movement of the young woman protagonist from a hierarchical, time-resisting place to a more socially heterogeneous space of horizontal relationships. In so doing, the novel engages with a dissensus in public opinion in post-revolutionary England as to who should count as perceptible within the national community. The text extends the terrain of what can be said and by whom to those traditionally deemed beneath notice, entering dialogically into public debates as to who legitimately constitute ‘the people’. The complex social energies propelling change and inter-class rivalry and emulation are ‘gathered’ within the most significant thing to feature in the story: a piano. The ironic treatment of the heroine’s self-willed subjective blindness continues Austen’s critique of idealism to which the text opposes a continuous emphasis upon bodily concern with food, shelter, and weather.

Keywords:   place/space, dissensus, national community, ‘the people’, piano, idealism, food

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