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Jane Austen's Mental Maps

James Brown

The idea of 'mental maps' can be used to explore the way in which readers reconstruct place and landscape in Austen's fiction. Notwithstanding valuable research on Austen and landscape, that reconstruction is difficult because Austen seldom describes landscape and we are cut off from her assumptions about it by the reshaping of nature by Romanticism and by the Industrial Revolution. Austen had a practical as well as an aesthetic awareness of land, and sought to represent it accurately. Her interest in the landscape is explored by comparison with William Cobbett. To examine how space and landscape in Austen's novels are reimagined today, the article discusses three films based on them: Sense and Sensibility (1995), and versions of Emma produced by ITV and BBC (1996, 2009). In these films space is readily constructed expressively, psychologically or symbolically, but a dimension of Austen's realism is lost, and is replaced with elements of fantasy.

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