Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation

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Anthem Press, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 303 pages
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'Beautifully subtle, magnificent, shimmering... notably well written... the fineness of Tandon's writing, its willingness to talk of both text and life, is unusual in contemporary criticism, and throws his own voice beyond the academy.' James Wood, The London Review of Books 'Tandon has written a magisterial work.' Choice Magazine 'A book brimming with insights and many acute perceptions... Bharat Tandon outlines a refreshing redirection for Austen studies...' Times Literary Supplement 'Tandon casts new light on all Austen's writing, and reminds us of just how funny Jane Austen can be, but also how wise, not least in knowing the limits of wisdom, understanding and knowledge, of ourselves and each other... Tandon's book is a delight.' Adrian Poole, Reader in English and Comparative Literature and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation is a challenging exploration of the conversations which Austen's novels depict, and the conversations which they perform. During the eighteenth century, the activity of conversation was repeatedly portrayed as a morally improving and socially cohesive activity. By the time Jane Austen was writing in the early nineteenth century, however, speakers and writers could not always work with such confidence. Many worried that manners were being eroded into mannerisms; many more were becoming conscious that their speech was fraught with the potential for deceit and misunderstanding. This important study investigates how Austen worked with, and played upon, the cracks and faultlines which time had uncovered in the ideals of polite conversation. In a wide-ranging argument, combining intellectual history and literary stylistics, Bharat Tandon explores such activities as flirtation and ventriloquism, in order to show how a form of conversational morality is what Austen's novels both describe and set out to achieve. At the same time, he surveys readers' reactions to Austen, from the nineteenth century to the present day, in order to investigate the possibilities and limitations of 'ethical' criticism. Written in a lively and accessible style, Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation offers a re-evaluation of Austen's career that will be of interest to scholars and general readers alike.

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Jane Austen
Robert P. Irvine
No preview available - 2005
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About the author (2003)

Bharat Tandon teaches at St. Anne's College, University of Oxford, and is the former External Director of Studies in English at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge.

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