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Beyond the trivial: Austen's narratives of fashion

Taylor, Jane; (2016) Beyond the trivial: Austen's narratives of fashion. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis argues that fashion is central to Austen’s artistic project; it describes how Austen manipulates fashion and fashion-consciousness to create narrative drama. By charting the rise of the fashion system and the concurrent surge in fashion-centric literature (comprising novels, satire and the nascent fashion magazine) that occurred in her lifetime, the thesis observes the ways in which fashion and textual practices were interlocked in the period. Austen’s well-known epistolary responses to consumer fashions are often seen as irreconcilable with her fictions, in which fashion is, it has often been argued, marginal. This thesis challenges such assertions by revealing how Austen deliberately uses fashion to frame her narratives; like her letters, her fiction and verse respond to fashion as a literary, linguistic and stylistic phenomenon. Readings of Austen’s fiction in this thesis offer new ways to think about the role of fashion within her work. It demonstrates that Austen’s deployment of fashion illuminates the construction of her narratives. It contends that in Austen’s writing fashion carries distinct and varying narrative purposes in individual texts. In her juvenilia and unpublished verse Austen reconsiders the interconnected tropes of sartorial and literary fashions associated with the sentimental genre, but also relies on the fashion-consciousness of her coterie of readers. In Sense and Sensibility Austen’s narrative is filtered through the fashion-consciousness of her characters and structured by the exchange of fashionable objects. In Mansfield Park fashionable boredom is used to generate narrative structure, whilst in Emma, the communication of fashion is intimately tied to the act of self-fashioning. This study examines in detail and for the first time how Austen’s literary style, from the minutiae of narrative perspective to wider concerns of genre and structure, is consciously informed by fashion.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Beyond the trivial: Austen's narratives of fashion
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Austen, fashion, the novel, eighteenth century
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1477312
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