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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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Suffering Sea Changes

Suffering Sea Changes

Jane Austen’s Afterlives and the Possibilities of a Late Style

(p.147) 9 Suffering Sea Changes
Late Style and its Discontents

Olivia Murphy

Oxford University Press

At Jane Austen’s death in 1817 she was just forty-one years old, yet traditionally her career has been conceived as a coherent narrative ending neatly in the ‘elegiac’ style and ‘autumnal tone’ of Persuasion (1818). Fortunately this smooth narrative can be disrupted by an analysis of Austen’s posthumously published works, allowing us to recover an author whose interest in literary experimentation, and witty irreverence, continued even on her deathbed. This chapter explores the construction of the persona of the ‘dying Jane Austen’, beginning with her family in the nineteenth century and continuing through the twentieth century and into the present with persistently biography-inflected criticism. After questioning whether the critical notion of a ‘late style’ can accommodate the work of a relatively young writer, and a woman, this chapter investigates three of Austen’s ‘late’ works: Persuasion, the fragment called Sanditon, and the poem known as ‘Winchester Races’.

Keywords:   late style, reception, biography, women’s writing, death, elegy

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