This month’s visiting Narrative Research Group speaker is Dr Andrew McInness from Edge Hill University who will be speaking on the subject of ‘Jane Austen, Elsewhere’ (full abstract below).
Dr McInnes will be presenting his research 4-5pm in F309 on Weds 22 March 2017. As always, we will proceed to Dylans for continued discussion over drinks afterwards.
All are very welcome!
Alibi / In Illo Tempore: Jane Austen, Elsewhere
Andrew McInnes, Senior Lecturer, Edge Hill University
Elsewhere is the name and the place, the name of the non-place of that nature. Elsewhere in time, in illo tempore; elsewhere in space, alibi.
– Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, transl. Gayatri Spivak
As well as attending to the slipperiness of language which exercises Derrida, I want to map his discussion of ‘elsewhere’ above onto Jane Austen’s treatment of space (and time) in her novels. In 1925, Virginia Woolf argued that we can place Austen exactly ‘upon the map of human nature’ because of her refusal to trespass ‘beyond her boundaries’, sticking to a realistically depicted world without ‘spasms’ or ‘rhapsodies’. ‘But’, Woolf concludes, ‘she does not deny that moons and mountains and castles exist – on the other side’. In this paper, I want to probe the boundaries of Austen’s works, reconsidering the view from her seemingly pre-determined world to that ‘other side’ of fairy tale and – particularly thinking about the moonlit darkness of those mountains and castles – the Gothic. I argue that Austen betrays a continuing interest in the tropes and methods of Gothic fiction, beyond the parodic mode of Northanger Abbey, throughout her later writing, but that this fascination is pushed to the boundaries of her fictional worlds, acting as a frame through which we can read her representations of female resilience, claustrophobic interiors, and flawed as well as threatening masculinity anew. For the purposes of this paper, I will focus on Austen’s representation of a classic locus of Gothic fiction: Southern Europe, depicted as a Catholic, continental counterpart to Protestant Britain, often both an alibi and a temporal other onto which to map primal fears, superstitions, and a desire for, as well as a horror of, violence. Focusing on Mansfield Park, I argue that William Price’s adventures in the Mediterranean provide an alternative counterpoint to the more-often-commented-upon Antiguan estate for the Gothic atmosphere of Austen’s 1814 novel: a counterpoint which finds its ambiguous expression in the cross he sends Fanny and which I see as an emblem of Jane Austen’s ‘elsewhere’.
Andrew McInnes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Edge Hill University. He has recently published his first monograph, Wollstonecraft’s Ghost: The Fate of the Female Philosopher in the Romantic Period (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016). His research interests include: Romantic period women’s writing, the geographies of Gothic fiction, and children’s literature.