New companion to Jane Austen

Dr Sandie Byrne, Associate Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing, is numbered among contributors to an extensive new scholarly volume on a much-loved author in English literature: Jane Austen.

The Routledge Companion to Jane Austen provides wide-ranging coverage of Jane Austen’s works, reception, and legacy, with 44 chapters that draw on the latest literary research and theory and represent foundational and authoritative scholarship as well as new approaches to an author whose works provide seemingly endless inspiration for reinterpretation, adaptation, and appropriation.

‘Though there are many more hundred, and possible thousand, works about than works by Austen, there always seems to be something new to say about her writing, which is a testament to its enduring and evergreen qualities,’ said Dr Byrne. ‘Editors Cheryl Wilson and Maria Frawley have done a fine job in producing such a substantial and diverse collection. The volume includes chapters ranging from the themes of the novels, their historical contexts and their reception to articles on teaching Austen.’

The Companion provides up-to-date work by an international team of established and emerging Austen scholars and includes exciting chapters not just on Austen in her time but on her ongoing afterlife, whether in the academy and the wider world of her fans or in cinema, new media, and the commercial world.

‘Because I had published Jane Austen's Possessions and Dispossessions: The Significance of Objects, I was asked to write a chapter on material goods in the novel. That chapter focuses on women's ownership of objects and the law.’

Dr Byrne’s chapter notes that although Austen rarely gives detailed specific descriptions of material objects in her fiction, nonetheless houses, estates, and consumer goods are deeply invested with significance – not only for plot but also for themes and characterisations, and property is foregrounded in the opening of each of the major novels.

‘The essay argues that though in Austen's time women had the legal status of property, the novels illustrate ways in which both feme sole and feme covert (unmarried and married women) could choose, purchase and retain property, why this was important, and why it should not be all-consuming,’ said Dr Byrne.

And the work on Austen continues.

‘I'm currently editing a special edition of a periodical, Humanities, which will be devoted to 'international Austen'. Some of the essays, by scholars from all over the world, will explore the reception of Austen in different places and cultures, others will address topics such as Austen's depictions of children, illustrated editions of her work, music, and the representation of wit.’

The Routledge Companion to Jane Austen is 601pages in length. Learn more on the publisher’s website.

Published 10 February 2022