Jane Austen's Youthful Art of Anticlimax


  • Inger Brodey UNC-Chapel Hill




Jane Austen, juvenilia, eighteenth-century British literature


Jane Austen wrote three volumes of juvenilia, entitled Volume the First, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. Most scholars agree that they were written between the ages of eleven and eighteen (1787-1783). These stories are hilarious and outrageous, particularly considering the understated decorum of her later novels. It is true, as Margaret Anne Doody claims, that these youthful writings “point in directions in which their author was later not permitted to go” (Doody, 103). Yet in many ways, these teenage writings nonetheless proleptically define her taste and mission in her mature works. This essay focuses on one aspect of her style in these teenage writings, as well as its afterlife in her later writings. In considering her use of anticlimax, this essay also suggests the ways in which this particular stylistic device or figure of speech shapes Austen's greater mission and strategy as a novelist, suggesting continuity rather than discontinuity between the teenage writer and the mature author. In fact, the use of anticlimax is directly related to the critical disputes over Austen’s endings and whether or not she is impatient with conclusions in general.


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