Jocelyn Harris’s new book, Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen, continues to receive high accolades. Read on for praise of the recent Bucknell Press publication.
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In Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen, Jocelyn Harris argues that Jane Austen was a satirist, a celebrity-watcher, and a keen political observer. In Mansfield Park, she appears to base Fanny Price on Fanny Burney, criticize the royal heir as unfit to rule, and expose Susan Burney’s cruel husband through Mr. Price. In Northanger Abbey, she satirizes the young Prince of Wales as the vulgar John Thorpe; in Persuasion, she attacks both the regent’s failure to retrench, and his dangerous desire to become another Sun King. For Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Austen may draw on the actress Dorothy Jordan, mistress of the pro-slavery Duke of Clarence, while her West Indian heiress in Sanditonmay allude to Sara Baartman, who was exhibited in Paris and London as “The Hottentot Venus,” and adopted as a test case by the abolitionists. Thoroughly researched and elegantly written, this new book by Jocelyn Harris contributes significantly to the growing literature about Austen’s worldiness by presenting a highly particularized web of facts, people, texts, and issues vital to her historical moment.
“Harris is well established as a guide to the wider thought-world of the author…. In her latest book her expertise and questing curiosity are brought to bear on a set of themes that have not generally been associated with Austen.”
—Emma Clery, University of Southampton; Times Literary Supplement (February 2018)
“New Zealand academic Jocelyn Harris’s excellent Satire, Celebrity and Politics in Jane Austen published early this year shows what a keen political observer Austen was, and how her interest in the celebrities of the day, such as actress Dorothea Jordan and Sara Baartman (an African woman with very large buttocks who was exhibited in English freak shows as “the Hottentot Venus”), influenced and inspired characters in Austen’s fiction.”
—Susannah Fullerton; The Australian (July 2017)
“[T]his is a wonderfully rich and convincing presentation of much new material. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.
“This book is an enjoyable one for anyone who has read Austen’s novels or watched productions of them on television…. Jocelyn Harris is an excellent writer. For an academic study, the usual jargon and allusions to various post-modern theories are happily absent in this book. It is packed with detail and citations. It’s is valuable for Cook enthusiasts because of its chapter on Molesworth Phillips, and the broader considerations surrounding the death of Captain Cook.”
“Satire, Celebrity, and Politics is unfailingly fascinating in its dissection of Jane Austen, the satirist, and the text is enhanced by a well-chosen selection of contemporary portraits and gloriously scurrilous cartoons. The ‘stories behind the stories’ always make for an interesting read and Harris has produced a book that will be read with great pleasure by academics and devoted readers alike.”
—Jane Austen’s Regency World
“Burney scholars will find Jocelyn Harris’s latest book Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen an enriching read.… [It] responds to, and expands upon, the work of critics who have demonstrated that Austen was so much more than the domestic, apolitical novelist her family portrayed her to be.… Harris reinforces the image of Austen as a well-informed and sharp-minded woman who was seriously engaged with the socio-political issues of the day…. With a keen eye for detail, Harris exposes the subtle connections between the unrestrained, public laughter surrounding such figures and the more restrained, oblique laughter in the novels, thereby deepening our understanding of Austen’s skill for sature in the process.”
—Elles Smallgoor; Burney Newsletter
“Jocelyn Harris’s book, which reflects on the ways in which Jane Austen’s work may have been influenced by what she knew about certain celebrities of her time, is a pleasant and accessible read…. On the whole…I would emphasise the thorough research into the socio-historical context that has gone into this book, and which makes it of interest to anyone who would like to know more of current events during Austen’s lifetime.”
—Rita J. Dashwood, The Jane Austen Society (Spring 2018)
“In Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen, University of Otago Emeritus Professor Jocelyn Harris approaches Austen in terms of the world in which she lived, using what is known of everything from her social networks to contemporary media portrayals of prominent figures, to argue that her novels are much more than mere domestic dramas…. Although primarily an academic text, Satire, Celebrity, and Politics has much of interest here for the lay reader too. The glimpses it offers into regency England and diversions into topics as diverse as the disputed accounts of Cook’s death and the misbehavior of the Prince Regent are as interesting as the primary analysis…. [Harris’s formidable thesis] is standing its ground in the fierce world of Austen scholarship.”
—Cushla McKinney, The Otago Daily Times (July 2018)
“Harris’s impressive new book, Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen (2017), builds on the work of her pioneering 1989 study, deepening our sense of what Austen may have been up to in crafting her novels…. Harris’s well-written, deeply researched, and timely book has a great deal to offer…. It is difficult to find any scholarship on these subjects that is simultaneously attentive to Austen’s fiction, to the history of theory and criticism, and to the minutiae of Austen family history and biography. Harris weaves all of these kinds of evidence and arguments together to great effect…. For years to come, readers and critics will be weighing the massive number of new insights in this book, troubling through their implications for our future readings of Austen, politics, history, and popular culture.”
—Devoney Looser, Arizona State University
“Last year’s bicentenary commemoration of the death of Jane Austen has given her readers many reasons for celebration. This book is one of them…. Jocelyn Harris in this careful, enthusiastic and learned book shows how Jane Austen achieves vision through observation and creates a new and distinctive world from a recognisable world.”
—Tony Voss, Jane Austen Society of Australia
“Jocelyn Harris has studied the influences on Jane Austen’s writing for a long time…. [Her] thoroughness and detailed and intriguing analysis are exceptional. The text is dense. Her sleuth work is incredible and includes compelling evidence…. The twenty-first century student of Jane Austen will never read her in the same way after reflecting on Jocelyn Harris’s latest book.”
—Sylvia Kasey Marks, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
“Like most members of JASNA, I think that I know Jane Austen, but after reading Jocelyn Harris’s latest book, I’m not so sure…. For many readers…Jane Austen is isolated, safely removed from controversies of personality or politics. Jocelyn Harris overturns that view of Jane Austen and demonstrates just how connected the author was to her contemporary scene. Harris’s work…will prompt scholars to penetrate deeper into her suggested connections.”
—David Wheeler, JASNA News
“Throughout Satire, Celebrity, and Politics, we are thoroughly persuaded of Harris’s main argument that Austen ‘was a politician, in the former sense of a person keenly interested in practical politics….’ [Harris conducted] capacious research.”
—Melissa Rampelli, Holy Family University