© 2018

The Language of Jane Austen


Part of the Language, Style and Literature book series (LSL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Joe Bray
    Pages 1-9
  3. Joe Bray
    Pages 11-30
  4. Joe Bray
    Pages 31-55
  5. Joe Bray
    Pages 57-82
  6. Joe Bray
    Pages 83-105
  7. Joe Bray
    Pages 107-126
  8. Joe Bray
    Pages 127-143
  9. Joe Bray
    Pages 145-164
  10. Joe Bray
    Pages 165-172
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 173-182

About this book


Joe Bray’s careful analysis of Jane Austen’s stylistic techniques reveals that the genius of her writing is far from effortless; rather he makes the case for her as a meticulous craftswoman and a radical stylistic pioneer. Countering those who have detected in her novels a dominant, authoritative perspective, Bray begins by highlighting the complex, ever-shifting and ambiguous nature of the point of view through which her narratives are presented. This argument is then advanced through an exploration of the subtle representation of speech, thought and writing in Austen’s novels. Subsequent chapters investigate and challenge the common critical associations of Austen’s style with moral prescriptivism, ideas of balance and harmony, and literal as opposed to figurative expression. The book demonstrates that the wit and humour of her fiction is derived instead from a complex and subtle interplay between different styles. This compelling reassessment of Austen’s language will offer a valuable resource for students and scholars of stylistics, English literature and language and linguistics.


novel realism Persuasion Pride and Prejudice Mansfield Park Emma Sense and Sensibility Northanger Abbey metonymy narrative epistolary form Jane Austen stylistics omniscient narrator free indirect speech free indirect thought stylistic techniques figure of the reader

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnglishUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Joe Bray is Professor of Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield, UK. He is the author of The Epistolary Novel: Representations of Consciousness (2003), The Female Reader in the English Novel (2009), The Portrait in Fiction of the Romantic Period (2016), and co-editor of, amongst others, The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature (2012). 

Bibliographic information


“Joe Bray’s book is a refreshing departure from this prescription. In it, Professor Bray proposes to reacquaint us with the sophistication and experimental nature of Austen’s way with language, characterisation, and narrative technique through a series of close readings of key passages from her fiction using the analytic tools of modern stylistics. … Joe Bray has written an interesting and informative study, a useful guide for students wishing to understand the texture of Austen’s language.” (Kathryn Sutherland, Cercles,, February, 2019)