In recent decades there have been many attempts to pull Austen into the fold of high Romantic literature. On one level, these thematic comparisons are useful, for Austen has long been anachronistically treated as separate from the Romantic tradition. In the past, her writings have essentially straddled Romantic classification, labeled either as hangers-on in the satiric eighteenth-century literary tradition or as early artifacts of a kind of proto-Victorianism. To a large extent, scholars have described Austen as a writer departing from, rather than embracing, the literary trends of the Romantic era. Yet, while recent publications depicting a “Romantic Austen” yield impressive insights into the timeliness of her fiction, they haven't fully addressed Austen's participation in some of the most crucial literary debates of her time. Thus, it is my intention in this essay to extend the discussion of Austen as a Romantic to her participation in Romantic-era debates over emergent literary categories of authorship and realism. I argue that we can best contextualize Austen by examining how her model of authorship differs from those that surfaced in literary conversations of the time, particularly those relating to the high Romantic myth of the solitary genius. Likewise, as questions of solitary authorship often overlap with discussions of realism and romance in literature, it is important to reexamine how Austen responds to these categories, particularly in the context of a strictly Romantic engagement with these terms. I find that, though Austen's writing has long been implicated in the emergence of realism in literature, little has been written to link this impulse to the earlier emergence of Romantic-era categories of authorship and literary creativity. I contend that Austen's self-projection (as both an author and realist) engages with Romantic-era literary debates over these categories; likewise, I argue that her response to these emergent concerns is more complex and nuanced than has heretofore been accounted for in literary scholarship.



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Humanities; English



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Jane Austen, authorship, communal Romanticism, eighteenth century, John Keats, letters, Lord George Byron, Northanger Abbey, novels, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Persuasion, poetry, realism, Romanticism, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth