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Landscape as Literary Criticism

Jane Austen, Anna Barbauld and the Narratological Application of the Picturesque

Anne Toner

This article argues that in Jane Austen's work there is an affiliation between the experience of landscape and the forms that fictional works can take. This is evident in 'Catharine, or the Bower' where an analogy is set up between the reading of a novel and travel through a picturesque landscape, a connection that is returned to in Pride and Prejudice. This affiliation can be contextualized first by reference to Austen's comments in her letters about narrative form, and then by reference to contemporary criticism of the novel, in particular that of Anna Barbauld. Barbauld overtly uses landscape for narratological purposes in her introductory essay to Samuel Richardson's Correspondence, alluding to Uvedale Price's Essay on the Picturesque to extol Richardson's formal achievements in Clarissa. Austen's views on narrative organization and on landscape design strongly resonate with Barbauld's, and both writers evoke the picturesque to provide a formalist critique of the novel.

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