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Jane Austen and Diversity: Laughter through Gritted Teeth

Posted in Events
Jan 15, 2021

Literature Matters January 15, with Kathleen James-Cavan

Literature Matters
Talks by members of the Department of English

Jane Austen and Diversity: 
Laughter through Gritted Teeth

by Kathleen James-Cavan

Fri, Jan 15

3 to 4 pm

via Zoom

All are welcome.

Eventbrite registration:

Image title
Kathleen James-Cavan

Long considered the most white-bread of British literature, next only to Shakespeare’s plays, Jane Austen’s works appear inured to conflict or controversy. In truth, however, neither is very far from her compositions buttressed as they are by the aftermath of the French revolution, the abolitionist movement, and Napoleonic Wars. But what can Jane Austen’s works say today amid a pandemic that daily manifests deadly inequities based on gender, race, class, and ability? From the dispossession of women in her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, to the commodification of the “half-mulatto” heiress Miss Lambe in her last and unfinished work, Sanditon, Austen’s novels critique privilege. Through the lens of disability studies, this paper examines how laughter through gritted teeth opens cracks in the smooth complexions of ableist hierarchies by focusing primarily on Emma, Persuasion, and Sanditon.


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