PUBLIC TALK: 'Sense and Sensibility' and Jane Austen's lexicon of emotions
|'Sense and Sensibility' and Jane Austen's lexicon of emotions
A public lecture by Robert White, English and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia
Jane Austen's 'Sense and Sensibility' reflects different attitudes to reason and emotion running through the century preceding its publication in 1811. The eighteenth century is sometimes called 'the age of reason' and 'the enlightenment' because of a philosophical emphasis on 'sense', 'common sense', prudence and rational thought — all qualities which define Elinor Dashwood in the novel. However, a simultaneous cultural and literary movement led to the same century being labeled 'the age of sensibility', because of an emphasis on feelings, expressive emotions and sympathy – all of which characterize Marianne Dashwood. Austen clearly signals through her title that she is exploring through fiction the paradoxes in the two apparently opposite modes, thought and feeling, reason and emotion. One question that can be raised to focus this issue is whether her title poses a question – Sense OR Sensibility? – or a more inclusive statement to suggest a possible amalgamation of qualities – Sense AND Sensibility.
About this Series - New Perspectives on Jane Austen
On the two-hundredth anniversary of her death, this UWA Institute of Advanced Studies - Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Lecture Series presents new perspectives on the life and work of Jane Austen. Drawing upon the latest literary and historical research, UWA researchers tackle key themes in Austen's work and the wider social and cultural contexts in which she created her now world-famous novels.
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