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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The fiction from 1770 to 1830 shows the strains of a society that increasingly identified cultural consumption with gender. Whereas the sentimental novels of the 1770s used epistolary narrators to relate stories of love and feeling from the perspective of both men and women, by the 1790s the new, Gothic novels were centred on women besieged by tyranny from without and uncertainty from within. This genre fiction contributed to the derogation of the novel and its association with an undiscriminating female audience. Throughout the period, women were held up as the quintessential novel-readers because more women were visibly writing and reading novels than ever before, and because the popular marriage plot, female hero, thematic focus on etiquette, and emphasis on delicacy and refinement all seemed to speak to feminine concerns. In fact, most novel-writers and novel-readers were men because men wrote and read more than women.

Keywords: Jane Austen, audience, gender, Gothic, Ann Radcliffe, reading, sentimental, Walter Scott

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