I recently wrote a post about classic literature and feminism. I hinted at a blog post dedicated to classic authors like Henry James and Jane Austen. Throughout the past few months, I have read a lot of classic books for fun. That might seem a little crazy to some people, a year ago it would’ve sounded crazy to me, but I’ve found a new love for classics. However, while reading these books, a lot of questions came into my mind because as a feminist, there are some things I think about all the time. While reading, my feminist mind made me think about whether these books could be feminist novels, even if the authors weren’t feminists (and vice versa). The question I want to focus on today, Was Jane Austen really a feminist? And now that I have read most of her books and done research into her life, and I think I have my answer.
background. First, I want to recap the post I previously wrote about classic literature in general. I concluded that when we think about classic books and how feminist they are, we need to consider three things. The author, the time period, and what was allowed to be published.
jane austen. I’m focusing on Jane Austen because she is well known for publishing books ahead of her time with feminist themes. Her books feature independent and strong-minded women. They also may have had some not so “modern” women, but she included that in her pervasive representation of women at this time. She showed that women are individuals, with minds and opinions that aren’t limited to the kitchen.
time period restrictions. Jane Austen was born in 1775 and died in 1817. Her books were all published in the early 1800s, a time when even a female author was rare, so you can imagine a progressive book. This was a time when books rarely represented women or critiqued how society treats women. FOR THE TIME PERIOD, she presented extremely revolutionary ideas and did so unapologetically. Another fun fact, she never married, a choice that was UNHEARD OF for a woman at the time in Europe.
white feminism. Something that I’ve heard a lot is that Jane Austen’s books are primarily about white feminism. If you don’t know what that means, you can CLICK HERE to read my post about intersectional feminism or CLICK HERE to read the previous post about classic literature. And I definitely agree with the fact that her books highlight upper class, privileged, white women and their fancy lives. However, I also think that Jane Austen had to consider the people that would buy and read her books. In addition to audience restrictions, I think we should consider that the white feminism shown was the feminist version of literature at the time. That doesn’t make it right today, but we should still think about her books with that context.
my answer. I think, keeping in mind the time period and her books, that Jane Austen was a feminist. If she had written those books today, I think we would have a different conversation because of how the world and society are now. We should also remember how much changed because of her work. She contributed to what feminism is today and helped to open up a world for more female authors.
I’ve read most of Jane Austen’s books and loved them all, so maybe I’m a little biased. As someone who loves classics, romance, and feminism, I really love Jane Austen. So, my final opinion is that Jane Austen was a feminist. I could easily see an argument for the contrary, and I definitely encourage everyone to share your opinions and thoughts in the comments below.
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