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Generations of readers and movie viewers have been drawn to the spirited heroines of ^USense and Sensibility and ^UEmma. Prepared especially for students, this full-length critical study of Jane Austen covers her six most beloved works, including the two vels ^UNorthanger Abbey and ^UPersuasion, published posthumously. Young readers will enjoy the vivid biographical account of how Austen herself was just a teenager when she took up the pen and began to write in guarded secrecy. Austen scholar Debra Teachman has a historian's eye for detail as she describes Austen's homelife in the English countryside and the social environment that were so much a part of Austen's stories. Teachman examines each vel, relating how historical context influenced the characters, events and themes that Austen developed. Teachman eloquently points out, for example, that while Austen does t overtly preach feminism in any of her vels, the lack of legal protection for women is a vital societal theme in ^USense and Sensibility. Her discussion of the ecomic realities at the core of Austen's vels will help readers appreciate that works like the best-selling Pride and Prejudice are more than just charming stories. In addition to analyzing the literary elements in each work of fiction by Jane Austen, this Companion also gives students an overview of Austen's literary heritage. Discussing first the vel itself as a genre, this useful chapter then identifies each sub-genre that influenced Austen: epistolary writing, the adventure vel, the gothic form, and Women's Rights vels. An extensive bibliography directs readers to biographical materials, historical documents, reviews, criticism and numerous other accessible sources that will enhance their further study of Austen's writings. For students of classic fiction, this well written critical study aids in the enjoyment and understanding of the life and works of Jane Austen.
DEBRA TEACHMAN teaches English literature and composition at New Mexico State University, Alamogordo. She is also author of Understanding Pride and Prejudice: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (Greenwood 1997).