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Dancing in the "eye of the world" : voyeurism, performance, and the public text in Jane Austen’s scenes of dance

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Title: Dancing in the "eye of the world" : voyeurism, performance, and the public text in Jane Austen’s scenes of dance
Author: Bjarnason, Palma
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program English
Copyright Date: 1999
Abstract: Life in Jane Austen's fictional world is carried on under the constant public scrutiny of the "eye of the world." The consciousness of being watched reaches its most intense for Austen's heroines during social dances, one of the only societally sanctioned opportunities for the sexes to intermingle openly. Austen is thereby enabled to use the dance scenario for an investigation of female response to a "surveillance society." In exploring aspects of the dancing-watching relationship (voyeurism; performance; public text), I have grouped the novels into three pairs, according to the aspect which seems to predominate. In Chapter I, I look at voyeuristic acts of observing dance in Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Marianne Dashwood, an avid dancer, represents the passive watched object; the other, "active" alternative for women is to watch -- both Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot relinquish dance, and thereby preserve themselves from the threats of the performative space. In Chapter II, I focus on performance in Northanger Abbey and Emma: for both Catherine Norland and Emma Woodhouse, awareness of audience becomes a requisite feature of relation to a spectator society, as Austen illustrates the responses of the innocent and the experienced female, respectively, to a performative environment. In Chapter III, I look at Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, where a close examination of Austen's construction of the dance scenes reveals clearly that she emphasises the powerlessness of watched females within the ballroom, and by extension within society. Austen uses the ballroom as a microcosm of a voyeuristic and performative society: the actions of her heroines during scenes of dance are therefore illustrative of the various ways in which a female may negotiate dancing -- and living -- in the eye of the world.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/12351
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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