Jane Austen scholarship has become ever more sophisticated in recent years, and amongst its most remarkable advances have been a number of revelations of the ways in which her novels, once thought of as skilful pieces of escapism, are rooted in their age. Through an examination of her use of and attitude towards formal social occasions like balls, dinners and visits, David Monaghan's Jane Austen: Structure and Social Vision provides further evidence of this. Basing his argument on contemporary attitudes towards the moral role of manners, Professor Monaghan argues that Jane Austen's novelistic career embraces a searching analysis of the ability of the traditional values of the gentry to face up to the individualistic ethic of the emergent middle classes.
For all its excursions into the realm of social history, however, this book never loses sight of Jane Austen's novels as works of art. Each of the six major works is accorded its due weight as a discrete creation and, by demonstrating how Jane Austen uses the formal social occasion not only as a vehicle for social themes but also as a major structural principle, Professor Monaghan offers new insights into the shape of her fiction. [from the jacket]