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Jane Austen’s novels from the perspective of the theories and practices of modern-day psychotherapy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Adrienne Green
Publication date2019
Number of pages243
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis demonstrates the strong similarities between the subtle aspects of Austen’s complex characterisations and the perceptions and understandings of human psychology that are encompassed within twentieth-century models of psychotherapy. In this context, I show how the theoretical frameworks and principles that underpin different twentieth-century psychotherapeutic approaches facilitate the identification and definition of Austen’s frequently acknowledged insights into human nature. While the psychotherapeutic terms used in this exploration of Austen’s work have emerged in the post-Austen era, there is no suggestion in this discussion that Austen had some prescience of future models of psychotherapy. My intent is to highlight the resonances between Austen’s insights and modern-day psychotherapeutic formulations, and to show how these resonances illuminate Austen’s extraordinary psychological perspicuity. The analysis of Austen’s novels from this perspective leads to interpretations of Austen’s characters that at times differ substantially from existing perceptions and at others reinforce or enhance previous readings. The question of whether Austen took a didactic moral position in her novels is a central issue within this thesis. I explore the differing opinions expressed in existing critiques of her novels in this regard, and challenge the view that Austen intended to direct her readers towards a fixed moral code. I argue that Austen’s attitude to her craft suggests instead an intention on the author’s part to bring about enhanced self-awareness and a movement towards greater self-directed autonomy in her readers.