"A Pretty-ish Bit of Wilderness" Female Binaries and the Picturesque in the Novels of Jane Austen

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Description: Dismantling the images of propriety, Jane Austen embraces the vigorous reality of feminine identity while simultaneously analyzing its place in the patriarchal social structure. This opening of the garden gate has simultaneously liberating and disastrous consequences as Austen's female explorers bravely depart their manicured gardens to investigate an unknown wilderness. Unveiling this entryway provides a multitude of opportunities for critical study and provides the foundation upon which I will construct my argument. The introduction to my thesis will outline the overarching themes found in Eco-criticism and its sub-genre, Eco-feminism. Utilizing critics such as Gillian Rose, Barbara Gates, Jill Heydt-Stevenson, and Caroline Merchant, I will establish a working overview of the genre and begin to examine its usefulness for studying Jane Austen. Exploring the world of feminist geography with respect to Austen's novels will enhance a realm of study that has been left relatively undeveloped by traditional Austen criticism. An in-depth analysis of three of her novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park, reveals that her textual landscapes become an integral part in reflecting and propelling the plot's action. Eco-feminism primarily focuses on establishing a connection between the history of female subordination and the exploitation of environmental resources; however there is a hole in this critical canon that the novels of Jane Austen can fill. Her sophisticated interrogation of landscape and its effect on feminine interiority is in direct conversation with the link Eco-feminism seeks to establish between women and nature. Utilizing Eco-critical theory in conjunction with Austen's novels reveals another layer of complexity and meaning to her texts. Austen's strategic juxtaposition of controlled estates such as Rosings and Sotherton with the wild forests and slippery ha-has that reside outside of their borders enables her to narrate the subplots that unfold beneath the texts. Her juxtapositions also extend to her characters; for every heroine there is a binary, a person who anchors the text by her very existence as the complete antithesis of the novels' heroine. The detailed descriptions of these great estates converge with Austen's characters, enabling the great houses to reflect the personalities of those who inhabit them, and to offer the setting for their romantic successes and failures.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work