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The Process of Reading: Pride and Prejudice

  • Derek Alsop
  • Chris Walsh
Chapter

Abstract

To move from a novel as explicitly transgressive as Tristram Shandy to the proprieties of Pride and Prejudice (1813) might seem no easy transition. Yet, as we ended Chapter 2 with ‘blanks’ and ‘gaps’, so too can we begin our consideration of Jane Austen’s second novel. No less than Tristram Shandy does Pride and Prejudice offer rich pickings for a reception theorist like Wolfgang Iser. Indeed he quotes Virginia Woolf’s comment on Jane Austen to show ‘the extent to which the “unwritten” part of a text stimulates the reader’s creative participation’:

‘Jane Austen is thus a mistress of much deeper emotion than appears upon the surface. She stimulates us to supply what is not there. What she offers is, apparently, a trifle, yet is composed of something that expands in the reader’s mind and endows with the most enduring form of life scenes which are outwardly trivial … The turns and twists of the dialogue keep us on the tenterhooks of suspense. Our attention is half upon the present moment, half upon the future … Here, indeed … are all the elements of Jane Austen’s greatness.’1

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Copyright information

© D. K. Alsop and C. J. Walsh 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Alsop
  • Chris Walsh

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