The Hidden Jane Austen
Cambridge University Press, $44.95 pb, 207 pp, 9781107643642
John Wiltshire, the distinguished Austen scholar based at La Trobe University, has produced his fourth book on Jane Austen since 1992. Here, in a return to the critical bedrock of close reading, he invites us to share his pursuit of the ‘hidden’ Jane Austen – the supremely nuanced prose stylist.
Wiltshire argues that historical context is ultimately less important than ‘the implicit suggestions about human motive and behaviours that are conveyed in the pauses and implications of her prose’. His approach is informed by twentieth-century understandings of psychology and cognition, but he wears this theory lightly. His aim is simply to unpack Austen’s perceptions of the whole business of how we negotiate, through language, our lives in the community.