Irony

In: Social Issues

Submitted By mars
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"Jane Austen: Irony and Authority"
Critic: Rachel M. Brownstein
Source: Women's Studies 15, nos. 1-3 (1988): 57-70.
Criticism about: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Nationality: British; English

[(essay date 1988) _In the following essay, Brownstein focuses on several of Austen's novels, including Pride and Prejudice, to support her argument that Austen uses irony to convey a "discursive authority" from which women can derive pleasure in a patriarchal society.]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, right now, that language is involved in giving and taking both power and pleasure. Whether we begin by asking if the pen is a substitute for the penis, or think about why we read stories of love and adventure, or consider, from any point of view, pornography or psychoanalysis, we end by analyzing ways people please themselves and assert authority over others by using words. (To observe that critics writing about pleasure and power have managed to get what measure of the good stuff they can is to state the merely inevitable.) Claiming that women writers are powerful--i.e. effective and influential--has been a focus of feminist critics concerned to dispute the canon, to rehabilitate forgotten writers, and to revise women's relation to the languages of power. That Jane Austen, unforgotten, canonized, and stunningly authoritative, has been a problem for feminists is not surprising: in the struggle for power between politically radical and conservative critics, she has for years been claimed by both parties. Her own interest in power is suggested as her uses of the word acknowledge there are different kinds: in Pride and Prejudice, for instance, Elizabeth says that "It is not in my power to accept" an invitation (211), and, "I do not know any body who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy," (183) and her friend…...

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