This elegant and thoughtful work offers an important new way of understanding Jane Austen by defining the fundamental impact and influence of British Romanticism on her later novels. In comparing the earlier and later phases of Austen's career, Deresiewicz addresses an important yet neglected issue regarding her work: the longstanding critical consensus that Austen's last three novels ( Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion) represent far greater artistic achievements than do her first three ( Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice).
Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets offers a rich account of the differences between the two phases of Austen's career. In doing so, it contextualizes her later novels within the British Romantic movement and the works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, and Byron. Through close readings of Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, Deresiewicz reveals the importance of Romantic ideas in Austen's later work, considering the ways in which the novels investigate hidden mechanisms of psychic and affective life, including "substitution," "ambiguous relationships," and "widowhood." Deresiewicz's innovative approach and its emphasis on Romanticism opens up new perspectives on Austen's later novels by exploring their patterns of imagery, narrative logics, and social and historical dimensions.
"Comprehensive in its scope, ambitious in its aims." — Michael Caines, Times Literary Supplement
"This is an important, well-written book that makes a number of bold claims about Austen's work." — Beth Lau, Newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America
"William Deresiewicz's finely written and brilliantly conceived exploration of the influence of the romantic poets on Jane Austen addresses with extraordinary historical precision and critical sensitivity an issue which up to now in Austen studies has only been touched on. I am delighted that someone has addressed the issue more fully at last. Deresiewicz's nuanced and complex readings will deepen the ways we have understood Austen's last three novels and revitalize the larger question of Austen's relations with her literary contemporaries. This is a extraordinarily eloquent and original book, a joy to read, one of the most significant studies of Austen's work to have come along. It will have a major influence on future directions in Austen studies." — Susan Morgan, Miami University
"William Deresiewicz makes an elegant case for the idea that Jane Austen's encounter with the Romantic poets revolutionized her understanding of human existence. The complexity and wisdom of her late novels spring from a new conception of time, marginality, and loss that is thoroughly Romantic." — Tobin Siebers, University of Michigan