Monday, January 14, 2013

Critical Reception - Sense & Sensibility

Much critical commentary on Sense and Sensibility deals with the terms referred to in the title—"sense" versus "sensibility." Some critics have concluded that Austen advocated a woman's possessing "sense," not "sensibility," while others have argued that Austen advocated possessing neither one nor the other, but a balance between the two. It is not surprising that a good deal of criticism on the novel revolved around comparisons of one type or another which harken back to the one Austen presents to readers in the title. Critics compare Elinor and Marianne, Willoughby and Edward Ferrars, and lesser characters such as Fanny Dashwood and Lucy Steele. One critic aligns the Dashwood sisters and Willoughby against the rest of the novel's characters. Commenting on other comparisons or "pairings," other critics note that Austen negotiates between actual and hypothetical language; private desire and public voice; epistolary and objective narration.
In addition, several critics have commented on the novel's position within feminist and gender studies. One critic finds the novel the most antifeminist of all Austen's books in its consideration of female authority and power, while another posits that feminist criticism is vital to evaluating Sense and Sensibility for the way in which it offers new ways of valuing the female experience. Yet another critic argues that Austen has created, through the character of Elinor, a female intellectual, signaling Austen's attempt to reshape ideas about gender through her novel.

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