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Moreland Perkins's Reshaping the Sexes in "Sense and Sensibility" is an accessible yet sophisticated exploration of Jane Austen's revision and reversal of sexual stereotypes. He argues that Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, embodies her most sustained effort at correcting dominant concepts of gender in her era. Through an engaging, often witty analysis of the text, he demonstrates how the novel's protagonists deviate from ruling ideas of their sexes and reveal Austen's own feminist tendencies.By comparing Elinor Dashwood to Austen's other female protagonists, Perkins argues that she alone exemplified a type of heroine unique for her time and still unacknowledged: an intellectual. With her acute sense of honor and her commitment to civic responsibility, Elinor is one of Austen's most complex constructions. Perkins also shows that Elinor's passions are more intense and interesting than many readers have seen. Critics have described Marianne Dashwood's love ethic as emotive and her illness as brought on by Freudian repression, but Perkins finds her sexually unrepressed and rational in her ethic. Edward Ferrars's modesty, shyness as lover, and merely domestic ambitions also challenge gender stereotypes. Yet his wit, moral courage, and farmerly practicality enrich his portrait in a way that helps us appreciate Elinor's love.Perkins prefers to scrutinize, not theorize. Seeking reconstruction, never reconstruction, he offers new readings of puzzling actions, such as Marianne's marrying Colonel Brandon, and Elinor's assisting Brandon to enable Edward to marry her "fair rival".Perkins shows that this underestimated novel offers important insights into Austen'snotion of what a woman can be and a man should be, and into the deeply social conception of felt emotion that drives and structures her fiction. Gracefully written and deftly argued, this book makes a persuasive case for taking a
Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, is a witty satire of the sentimental novel, a popular genre in Britain throughout the 1790s and the Regency. When it first appeared in 1811, the words in its title carried significant cultural weight beyond the confines of the novel, and into both popular and learned discourse. Through her dual heroines, Austen addresses, and satirizes, notions of sense and sensibility, and engages with the issues of inheritance, marriage, and love. The story concerns two sisters: the level-headed Elinor and the passionate and impulsive Marianne. When their father dies, his son by a previous marriage assumes possession of the family home. Marianne and Elinor, left to the care of their mercenary brother John and his wife Fanny, must remove to a cottage with their mother. Each sister meets a man in whom she is interested, and as with other Austen novels, requited love does not come easily. This newly annotated edition offers a thorough and perceptive introduction and a wide range of carefully selected contextual materials that further explore the term “sensibility.”
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