Finishing off Jane Austen : the evolution of responses to Austen through continuations of The Watsons
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This doctoral thesis analyses the evolution of responses to Jane Austen’s fiction through continuations of her unfinished novel The Watsons (c.1803-5). Although the first full “appropriation” of an Austen novel ever published was a continuation of The Watsons and a total of eight completions appeared between 1850 and 2008, little research has been done to link the afterlife of The Watsons and changing perceptions of Austen. This thesis argues that the completions of The Watsons significantly illuminate Austen’s reception: they expose conflicting readings of Austen’s novels through textual negotiations between the completer’s and Austen’s voice. My study begins by examining how the first continuation, Catherine Hubback’s The Younger Sister (1850), implies an alternative image of the Victorian Austen to that propounded by James Edward Austen-Leigh, Austen’s first official biographer (Chapter 1). The next two chapters focus on the effects of World War I and II on modes of reading Austen. Through L. Oulton’s (1923), Edith Brown’s (1928) and John Coates’s (1958) completions of The Watsons, this study examines the connection between Austen’s fiction and different notions of Englishness, politics and the nation. Chapter Four addresses the contribution of the 1990s completions to the debate over Austen’s feminism. Finally, Chapter Five analyses recent trends in Austenalia, which thwart the production of successful completions of The Watsons. My thesis presents the first substantial analysis of this body of work.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 8th August 2018
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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