Department of English

Associate Professor Janine Barchas publishes 'Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity'

Wed, August 22, 2012

From Johns Hopkins University Press

In Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity, Janine Barchas makes the bold assertion that Jane Austen's novels allude to actual high-profile politicians and contemporary celebrities as well as to famous historical figures and landed estates. Barchas is the first scholar to conduct extensive research into the names and locations in Austen's fiction by taking full advantage of the explosion of archival materials now available online.

According to Barchas, Austen plays confidently with the tension between truth and invention that characterizes the realist novel. Of course, the argument that Austen deployed famous names presupposes an active celebrity culture during the Regency, a phenomenon recently accepted by scholars. The names Austen plucks from history for her protagonists (Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Tilney, Fitzwilliam, and many more) were immensely famous in her day. She seems to bank upon this familiarity for interpretive effect, often upending associations with comic intent.

Barchas re-situates Austen's work closer to the historical novels of her contemporary Sir Walter Scott and away from the domestic and biographical perspectives that until recently have dominated Austen studies. This forward-thinking and revealing investigation offers scholars and ardent fans of Jane Austen a wealth of historical facts, while shedding an interpretive light on a new aspect of the beloved writer's work.

For a short Q&A with the author, see ShelfLife@Texas.

Now available from Johns Hopkins University Press

About the Author

Janine Barchas (Stanford B.A. and Chicago Ph.D.) joined the University of Texas at Austin in 2002, after teaching at the University of Auckland for five years.

Barchas’ first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  In addition to several editing projects, Barchas has published articles on writers from “the long eighteenth century” in journals such as ELH, Review of English Studies, Eighteenth-Century Life, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Nineteenth-Century Literature, and Persuasions. Ongoing projects include a website entitled “What Jane Saw” that reconstructs a museum visit attended by the Austens in 1813 as well as an investigation into the marketing of Jane Austen through book cover art from 1833 to the present.

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