This thesis addresses the significant but often overlooked relationship between Jane Austen's works and the body of criticism about them and the two major craft movements of the nineteenth century: the Handicraft Movement and the Arts and Crafts Movement. The connections occur at two important moments during that century—first, at the moment of Austen's career during the Regency/Romantic period, and second, at the Victorian moment of the years surrounding the 1869 publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh's Memoir about Austen. In both of these moments, critics and reviewers repeatedly respond to Austen's life and works by using craft-related diction. This diction and the coetaneous nature of the craft and critical movements are indicative of the ongoing struggle throughout the nineteenth century to negotiate, eliminate, or redefine the art versus craft aesthetic binary. During the Regency moment, this negotiation begins to emerge in the heyday of the Handicraft Movement and its love for ornamentation. However, it is not until the years surrounding the publication of Austen-Leigh's Memoir that the interdisciplinary ideologies of craft and literary aesthetics burst forth. This period of overlap is short-lived, lasting approximately two decades. Nevertheless, by acknowledging its existence and examining its influence upon the Memoir and the criticism surrounding it, we can gain a greater appreciation for the aesthetic context in which the Memoir was published and for the image of Austen crafted by Victorian reviewers—an image that would ultimately become the literary inheritance of readers and scholars in the twentieth century.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Jane Austen, Handicraft Movement, Arts and Crafts Movement