歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 308

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predecessors. Is
Sense and Sensibility
centrally concerned with
its title?
Claudia Johnson raised this question more than three
decades ago and answered it with an emphatic no. “The stock
terms of sensibility,” she argues, “surface [in this novel] only
occasionally and somewhat vestigially” (1983: 172). Instead,
uncertainty and hope “provide the most inclusive or
penetrating terms for understanding
Sense and Sensibility
(171). Although Johnson revolutionizes our interpretation of
this novel by providing two new critical terms, she upholds the
critical consensus that feeling, its excess, indulgence and
chastisement play a central role in
Sense and Sensibility
.
Thus
when Johnson discusses the effect Marianne Dashwood’s hope
of meeting Willoughby has on her behavior, she draws on a
variety of emotional registers: happy possibility, frantic vision,
anxious expectation, painful disappointment and anguished
disillusionment (179-180). While Johnson seeks to rescue
Austen criticism of
Sense and Sensibility
from the confines of
its suggestive title, she acknowledges that this novel represents
a rich emotional world and returns her readers to a world in
which sense and sensibility are significant indicators.
Whether or not they adopt the traditional sensibility-
oriented approach, Austen scholars agree that feelings play a
central role in
Sense and Sensibility
. This critical consensus
gives the lie to Charlotte Brontë’s famous accusation of Austen
as a cold lady writer uninterested in emotions: “the Passions
are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking
acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings
she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant
recognition” (as cited in Southam, 1995: 127). Austen
scholarship in the twenty-first century continues to vindicate
Austen’s familiarity with “the Passions” and to dismiss the idea
of emotional impoverishment that Brontë broaches as unjust
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