Tuesday 30 May 2017, 5.00PM
Speaker(s): Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford)
Austen’s popular and critical reception through much of the twentieth century was built on her seeming ignorance of public events, well described by Marilyn Butler as her ‘discreet’ approach to ideas. But just how discreet was she? Turbulent public events touched closely the private lives of several members of the Austen family: her cousin Eliza’s first husband was guillotined; her sailor brothers Frank and Charles saw service in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the American War of 1812. They wrote letters home from the East and West Indies, the Middle East and Mediterranean, the North Sea and North American waters, and Austen posted replies: from Chawton to ‘Captn Austen, HMS Elephant, Baltic’, and to China. Austen’s wartime vision is neither detached nor limited; what conspires to conceal her response in plain sight is her commitment to record events from the perspective of everyday reality—the daily routines of women (and men) who are waiting at home for letters from brothers or husbands campaigning overseas, who are reading the Army and Navy Lists for notice of men killed and officers promoted, and scanning the papers for news. It is time to reclaim her as the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front.
Location: Huntingdon Room, King's Manor, Exhibition Square
Admission: This event is free; no tickets required