Department or Program



The wealth of criticism on Jane Austen and her fiction—recent feminist criticism in particular—neglects insight crucial to understanding her political and literary messages. Austen was an avid and indiscriminate reader—a reader of novels, poetry, periodicals, didactic works, and history, among other genres. Because the depth and breadth of Austen’s reading is often disregarded, the extent to which her reading appears, strategically revised, in her own writing, is largely (or entirely) overlooked in recent criticism. This thesis identifies Austen’s dissatisfaction with certain contemporary writings as a primary motive for her composition and aligns her genius with her success in revising and reinterpreting the popular eighteenth-century works she knew so well. Austen’s use of her reading—in allusion, parody, and thematic reference in addition to outright revision—reveals the ways in which she differs from her predecessors, in her political and social beliefs as well as her literary style. This thesis uncovers previously unknown or disregarded sources for Austen’s work and, in analyzing these sources in concert with Austen’s own novels, reveals her criticism of the patriarchy. It traces Austen’s attitude towards her predecessors and contemporaries throughout her writing career, from the burlesque of her Juvenilia to her more measured use of literature in Emma and Persuasion. In recognizing the literary context of Austen’s work—a context familiar to her intended audience, but often forgotten by modern readers—critics and fans alike can interpret Austen’s alleged ambiguities with greater clarity.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]

First Advisor

Nayder, Lillian

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

2 pdf files