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Self-shaping in the Process of Subversion and Containment

时间:2020-06-29 21:48:51  来源:  作者:Shui Yanling[1]
Self-shaping in the Process of Subversion and Containment
          ——An Interpretation of Emma from the Perspective of New Historicism
Shui Yanling[1]
(重庆大学外国语学院,研究生在读)
Abstract: For several years, there has been a steady stream of research on Jane Austen's works, but most scholars have given priority to analyzing the views on marriage and feminism embodied in these works from the unique perspective of Austin's female narration, while ignoring the relationship between her works and history. In view of this, this paper selects her late representative work Emma as the object of analysis, from the perspective of new historicism, trying to anatomize the process of "subversion" and "containment" embodied in the main characters including Emma Woodhouse, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, as well as revealing the process of these characters' self-shaping through the achieved reconciliation between "subversion" and "containment". Thus, the historicity embodied in Jane Austin's text as well as her attitude towards history, which is both obedient and challenging is revealed.
Key Words: subversion; containment; new historicism; Emma; self-shaping
For a long time, there has been an army of scholars taking interests in studying Jane Austen. In these studies, the research on the view of marriage in her works has been a heated topic. In the six published literary works of Austen, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, each work is relevant to marriage and love. This is not only concerned with the social environment in which the author is located, but also inseparable from the author's personal life experience. The same motif has made the different works classic, which certainly contains the author's painstaking efforts. In her six major novels, Austen created the comedy of manners of middle-class life in the England of her time, revealing the possibilities of "domestic". Her repeated fable of a young woman's voyage to self-discovery on the passage through love to marriage focuses upon easily recognizable aspects of life. It is this concentration upon character and personality and upon the tensions between her heroines and their society that relates her novels more closely to the modern world than to the traditions of the eighteenth century.
In the previous studies, most scholars have attached importance to the analysis of marriage view involved in each work, which for the most part is based on the motif of love described by Jane Austen.
There are also a lot of scholars who study from the perspective of feminism reflected in Jane Austin's works with the female narrative techniques she has used. Especially for the analysis of her late work Emma, a majority of scholars anatomize the rebellious spirit embodied in the role of Emma from the perspective of feminism. While few of them analyze this work from the perspective of new historicism. The reason for this situation can boil down to the following factors that most individuals regard Jane Austin's writing as the narration for boudoir, about the daily life of women, thus its theme is regarded to be limited to a narrow scope. Until later with the promotion of interdisciplinary research, some literary critics gradually see the relationship between Jane Austen's writing and politics or economy. In those infrequent analyses of Emma involving the perspective of new historicism, some scholars merely highlight the analysis of literary texts' representation of history and the historical meaning of literary texts' representation embodied in the work, while ignoring the analysis of the subversion and containment embodied in the main characters in Emma. Therefore, in view of the above situation, this article will choose one of Jane Austen's most representative works Emma as an object for the research, trying to explore and make a new interpretation of the main characters' spirit of subversion and containment from the perspective of new historicism, and illustrate in detail how has the author associated her writing with the historical background in a period of social transformation.
1. Important Terms in New Historicism
The new historical literary criticism method makes the field of literary research out of the narrow scope of classics in literary research, and goes deep into all levels of literary texts, concerning history, economic and cultural background. New historicists hold unique views on history, texts and power. The new historicism no longer treats text and background or literature and history with a simple dichotomy, but believes that “history cannot be merely a contrast of literary texts or a stable background, and the independent state in which literary texts are protected should give its way to the interaction between literary texts and other texts or the mutual penetration of their boundaries”
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