- Sep 2017
This “Jane Austen,” the author of a body of texts that circulated across four continents within decades of their publication in England, has a less obvious relationship to the western ideal of the liberal autonomous individual
A weak aspect to this article is that Moe often makes unclear transitions in her argumentation. This is one of these cases.
Further, does this then mean that Austen has her own individual understanding of "modernity"? Then, perhaps, both Elizabeth and Charlotte are modern in their own respective ways.
Charlotte Lucas poses this question to Austen studies and to a liberal feminist critical agenda: what if you choose less, choose safety, and choose constraint; choose, in Elizabeth Bennet’s words, a “humiliating picture” for yourself but nonetheless expect to be happy? Charlotte is largely overlooked in Austen criticism except to shadow Elizabeth Bennet, the “most modern and liberated” of Austen’s characters.50 Charlotte models a form of subjectivity that thus far has been temporalized into a version of the premodern that Austen was eager to transcend. Yet the relevance that she has for feminism today is acute, as we expand our focus to a global context that encompasses modes of female agency and fulfillment that are not oriented toward resistance or autonomy. Taking the relationship between Charlotte and Elizabeth not as a dynamic of oppression and liberation, but as an agonistic exchange that produces multiple forms of female subjec-tivity allows Austen’s fiction to become a richer and more productive site for imagining feminism’s multiplicity. Charlotte and Elizabeth’s differing expectations about conjugal intimacy suggest the multiplicity of roles marriage can have in mediating between self and society. In particular, Charlotte’s long overlooked perspective points toward the possibility of human flourishing in situations of restraint and of attaching significance to self-discipline and to submission to social expectations. We can recognize the significance of Charlotte’s presence in Austen’s narrative and her own claim “to be . . . happy” only when we no longer assume that emancipatory self-expansion exhausts the possibilities of empowered conjugality.
This last paragraph is a tremendous conclusion that wraps up everything Moe pointed out in the thesis, thus successfully addressing what the article set out to achieve. However, I believe that within the content of the article, Moe did not consistently accentuate her arguments as well as she does in the last bit of her writing.