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Study Guide

Literary Precedents for Emma

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Literary Precedents

Austen's erudition as the daughter of an educator and an avid reader of novels, and her blending of the two traditions, rooted in Richardson and Fielding, of the sentimental novel and the comedy of manners has been noted in the discussion of Pride and Prejudice (see separate entry). Certainly the manipulative heroine, or villain, was nothing new in her day, but certainly Emma's unique combination of big heart and machinating mind were. Ian Watt cites Fanny Burney as a predecessor, but notes that Emma's originality lies in her ability to allot comic aggression, exhibited only by villains or rogues in older literary traditions, especially stage comedy, to good or potentially good characters. I have noted above how Emma's machinations help move the plot; she of course is a developing character who becomes less self-centered as the novel progresses. Watt goes on to note that evils in Austen are...

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This section contains 539 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Emma Study Guide
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Emma from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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