Displacement of Power: A Foucauldian Analysis of Sexuality in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
This article explores Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice from a Foucauldian understanding of power and truth. Where Austen’s critics tend to take her subject matter at face value and read her novels primarily about courtship and marriage, we argue that in doing so she is saying something very important about the foundation of modern political economy ¬namely who may be included and who must be kept out or be marginalized in order for its fabric to endure. In fact, the very subject matter allows Austen to make women’s right of refusal that is to say “no” into an important form of socio-economic power. Austen’s treatment of everyday life shows that she is a cultural critic that ironically scrutinizes cultural norms, revealing them as products of discourse rather than of truth, while also investigating the tools the characters use to substantiate or challenge these conventions. In this way, she tries to imagine new techniques of resistance to social norms by privileging some characters over others. In Austen’s estimation of her characters’ decisions and choices of finding happiness, she rejects some uses of power as abusive and esteems others in their ability to resist and follow norms that will bring a sense of happiness to characters. The power of refusal is not only real but is a force when comes up in connection with women’s issues and women’s rights as well. The metaphorical encounter between Elizabeth and Darcy is a violation of the assumption that women should flatter men in their quest to find husbands. This exchange does not have to do with the right of refusal directly, but is a more subtle and indirect approach to gender and power dynamics.
keywords: discourse, marraige, power, sexuality, truth
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