Study Guide

Persuasion

by Jane Austen

Persuasion Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

By the time Persuasion was published in 1818, Austen's novels had gained a limited reading audience that was dramatically expanded in 1833, when her novels were republished in the Bentley's Standard Novels series. Scholars began to pay attention to Persuasion and Austen's other novels in 1870, after the publication of Memoir of Jane Austen, the first major biography of her, written by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh. The biography triggered several articles on her works, including some by critics Margaret Oliphant and Richard Simpson. Scholarly attention to her novels increased at the end of the century and continued into the twentieth, especially after the publication of Mary Lascelles's Jane Austen and Her Art in 1939.

Persuasion, like her other novels, was praised for its realistic depiction of character and society. In his article on Austen for British Writers, Brian Southam applauds the "semantic drama" of the novel, commenting that within the novel "we can follow the scheme of characterization that brings the meaning of [the title] to life in the complexities and contradictions of human nature." Margaret Drabble, in her introduction to the Signet publication of the novel, praises its "strong anti-romantic tendencies," its "unexpected generosities," and its "welcoming of the possibility of a new order." These scholars have helped cement the novel's reputation as a literary classic.

(The entire section is 214 words.)