Pride and Prejudice

The Expressive Possibility of the Body in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” College

‘A blush overspread Anne’s cheeks. She could say nothing.’ (JANE AUSTEN, Persuasion)

‘There’s a blush for won’t, and a blush for shan’t— And a blush for having done it. There’s a blush for thought, and a blush for naught, And a blush for just begun it.’ (JOHN KEATS)

Jane Austen’s novels are famed for their concern with the intricacies of sociability in her world; with much critical emphasis placed upon terms of expression, turn-taking, and the particularities of language generally. In fact, many critics of Austen’s works note the ‘performative’ nature of this sociability, which has translated into multifarious film and television adaptations of her novels. Gillian Russell, writing on Pride and Prejudice, suggests that the modern preoccupation with Austen’s presentation of sociability reveals ‘the importance of sociability as a performative event, that is, what possibilities or dreams are realized […] by men and women meeting together in a particular place and time’. However, largely ignored is the role of body language in this sociability, which, as the extracts from both Keats and Austen communicate, can be as, if not more, expressive and telling as verbal communication – as in in Anne’s case, for instance, where her ‘blush’...

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