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Speech, Writing, and Allegory in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Parallel abstracts

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice opposes Darcy, a character closely associated with writing, to Wickham, one associated with speech. Elizabeth Bennet’s early prejudice in favor of Wickham and against Darcy—by extension, in favor of speech and against writing—is, among other things, an example of what Jacques Derrida calls phonocentrism. Her prejudice is as much a literary necessity as a moral defect, since Austen has ensnared her in a phonocentric allegory. After the unfolding of Darcy’s letter, the novel complicates the allegory, empowering Elizabeth, who, in her final argument with Lady de Bourgh, triumphantly exploits the fact that speech can function like writing. The novel does not replace phonocentrism with its opposite, a prejudice in favor of writing; rather, it shows how both speech and what we commonly call writing depend upon arche-writing. The novel stages its own retroactive detachment from the media prejudice it exploits.


Austen, Jane,Rogers, Pat(Ed.)(2006).Pride and Prejudice.Cambridge:Cambridge UP.
Baker, William(2008).Critical Companion to Jane Austen: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work.New York:Infobase.
Barchas, Janine(2012).Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity.Baltimore:Johns Hopkins UP.
Blanchemain, Laure(2009).Verbal Conflicts in Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Burney's The Wanderer.English Text Construction.2(1),111-20.
Bonaparte, Felicia(2005).Conjecturing Possibilities: Reading and Misreading Texts in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.Studies in the Novel.37(2),141-61.

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