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Jane Austen's Families

Jane Austen's Families

By June Sturrock

Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

“Jane Austen’s Families” focuses on family dynamics in Jane Austen’s six novels, especially on interaction between parents and children.  It examines with particular care the relations of fathers and daughters.      

Hardback, 160 Pages


January 2013

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

“Jane Austen’s Families” discusses the fictional families – such as the Bennets and the Bertrams – whose dynamics are crucial both to Austen’s plots and to her explorations of ethical complexities. The study focuses upon the central characters’ interactions with their own families and (to a lesser extent) with other family groups in an exploration of how emotional and moral development is both hindered and fostered by these interactions. Significantly, Austen chooses not to write about the orphaned heroines so often preferred by novelists of the period; rather, for a writer who cares intensely for what is natural and probable in fiction, the most common early experience of surviving the pains and pleasures of family life provides the richest material for her work.  

This study is historically grounded, reading Austen in the context of contemporary writing and visual culture in an exploration of her treatment of the relations between parent and child.  It examines Austen’s heroines as their parents’ daughters, responding to and resisting their upbringing, and shows how family interactions shape their courtships.  Inevitably this concern involves a consideration both of the ethics of parenthood and of the ethics these heroines acquire from their parents, through adaptation, imitation and resistance to what they are taught, directly and indirectly. Interactions between parent and child affect both the daughter’s experience and her active moral life.


“June Sturrock’s comprehensive, up-to-date, and engagingly written book examines Jane Austen’s artistic exploration of family dynamics. Part of the ethical turn in literary criticism, ‘Jane Austen’s Families’ focuses on the role that ‘creative attention’ to others plays in the individual emotional and moral development of Austen’s characters, in their overcoming or failing to overcome the effects of deeply flawed intergenerational relationships. The study provides new insights into these classical texts and shows the reasons for their continuing relevance to ethical theory despite their being rooted in the cultural codes of their time and place.” —Professor Leona Toker, Faculty of Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 “Writing within the resurgent ethical tradition of Jane Austen criticism, June Sturrock reveals in ‘Jane Austen’s Families’ how important a role family dynamics, more even than romantic encounters, play in the achievement of her novels. This well-informed, perceptive and wise book is a notable reminder that through her own attention to minute moral choices, Austen creates an ethics of ordinary life.” —Professor John Wiltshire, School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry, La Trobe University

“June Sturrock examines Jane Austen’s fiction with clarity and with her own ‘creative attention,’ revealing the ways families and family relationships become a mode of character development, an index to thematic issues, and a structuring principle as Austen develops ‘an ethics of ordinary life.’ A most enjoyable and illuminating study!” —Susan Allen Ford, Editor, “Persuasions” and “Persuasions On-Line”

Author Information

June Sturrock is professor emeritus of English at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.


Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; References and Abbreviations; General Introduction; PART I: FAMILY DYNAMICS: Introduction; Chapter One: The Functions of the Dysfunctional Family: “Northanger Abbey,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice”; Chapter Two: Spoilt Children: “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mansfield Park” and “Emma”;  Chapter Three: “Usefulness and Exertion”: Mothers and Sisters in “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mansfield Park,” “Emma” and “Persuasion”; PART II: FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS: Introduction; Chapter Four: Money, Morals and “Mansfield Park”; Chapter Five: Speech and Silence in “Emma”; Chapter Six: Dandies and Beauties: The Issue of Good Looks in “Persuasion”; Conclusion: “Creative Attention”;  Notes; Select Bibliography; Index 

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