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Jane Austen's EmmaPhilosophical Perspectives$
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E.M. Dadlez

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190689414

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190689414.001.0001

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The Dilemma of Emma

The Dilemma of Emma

Substance, Style, and Story

(p.216) Chapter 8 The Dilemma of Emma
Jane Austen's Emma

Peter Kivy

Oxford University Press

In the Penguin Classics edition of Jane Austen’s Emma, the editor of the volume, Fiona Stafford, writes: “From its first appearance, late in December 1815, Emma has been criticized for its lack of action. . . .” These are harsh words for a novel, suggesting deficiency in story. Is Emma then a failed novel? Yet the novel is published in a series called Penguin Classics. In other words, Emma belongs to the Western literary canon. That hardly spells “failure.” It appears that Emma presents a kind of informal paradox or dilemma for the philosophy of art. Emma, although it is agreed on all hands to belong to the canon, far from telling a whopping good story, is agreed on all hands to be sadly deficient in the storytelling department. It is this dilemma or paradox that is the subject of this chapter.

Keywords:   Austen, Emma, canon, novel, literature, philosophy of art

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