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Imagining women readers, 1789-1820Well-regulated minds$
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De Ritter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090332

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090332.001.0001

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Making the novel-readers of a country: pleasure and the practised reader

Making the novel-readers of a country: pleasure and the practised reader

(p.168) 5 Making the novel-readers of a country: pleasure and the practised reader
Imagining women readers, 1789-1820

Richard De Ritter

Manchester University Press

This chapter considers an important, but frequently neglected, outcome of reading: pleasure. It places this subject within the context of early nineteenth-century debates about novel-reading. While pleasure was often seen as a threat to the efficient management of one's imaginative economy, writers including Anna Letitia Barbauld celebrate what Jane Austen describes as the ‘unaffected pleasure’ produced by novel-reading. But is pleasure really as simple and spontaneous a matter as Austen appears to imply? To what extent does it disrupt the regulatory function of reading? These questions are explored in relation to Austen's Northanger Abbey and Barbauld's The British Novelists, as well as works by Hannah More and John Aikin. Ultimately, the texts discussed in this chapter celebrate the identity of the female novel-reader; they draw upon earlier debates about reading to suggest ways of reconciling the pursuit of pleasure with the exercise of independent, critical judgement.

Keywords:   Reading, Novels, Pleasure, Shame, Domesticity, Nation, Jane Austen, Anna Letitia Barbauld, John Aikin

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