[S]he learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. (Persuasion 32)
It is difficult to overstate how important memory, and therefore notions of time and space, became during the eighteenth century. The general shift away from the collective and toward the individual—and toward an individual consciousness—demanded that people begin to build a new relationship with the past, one that, as Margaret Anne Doody points out, corresponded with and upheld the new economic and legal structures of the Enlightenment (68). Ian Watt, too, in his classic study of the rise of the novel, articulates the correlative relationship between philosophical realism and the new tendency for authors to try to create individual characters that bond with real times and places (9-34). The intimate relationship between memory and notions of time and space becomes crystallized in works such as Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders—a narrative, told from the perspective of a woman who is writing years after the events she unfolds for us—that support the eighteenth-century’s confidence in and reliance upon the personal memory of the individual. In fact, as Doody points out, forgetfulness becomes reprehensible not only because it puts individual consciousness at risk but also because it threatens the economic and legal systems of the Enlightenment and Whiggish culture (73).
Jocelyn Harris, in her impressive study of the relationship between Jane Austen’s memory and craft, demonstrates the degree to which this Lockean worldview continued to dominate and evolve into the early nineteenth century. Austen’s allusions, Harris argues, were not merely accidental. On the contrary, Austen consciously relied on her memory to engage with authors of the past—Milton, Locke, Richardson, Shakespeare, and Chaucer—and in the process offered her readers a glimpse into her unconventional views on gender and sexuality. In the case of Persuasion, for example, Harris claims that Austen invoked, via allusions, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath and Samuel Richardson’s Harriet Byron from Sir Charles Grandison in order to expose and redefine the imbalanced power relations between men and women. In the scene that seems to interest Harris the most—the final scene that Austen revised—Captain Frederick Wentworth, like the knight in the Wife’s tale, realizes that “what women love best is ‘maistrie’” and that in order to win “a wife miraculously restored to youth,” he must renounce some of his agency and hand it over to his wife (205). “Such equality,” Harris astutely points out, “is what Anne and Wentworth seek. Not sovereignty, not weakness, but a sense that both are ‘more equal to act’” (207-08).1
from Harris’s argument—specifically her claim that Anne
and Wentworth become sexual equals at the end of the novel—I
would like to put more pressure on how
this demand for sexual equality plays out in Persuasion.
To do this, it seems appropriate to investigate how Austen would have
conceived of sex and sexuality and how she would have envisioned
categories of sexual identity as she was writing in 1815 and 1816.
Indeed, this undertaking is overwhelming and sensitive, but it has
recently been made less daunting by the critical vocabulary and
methodologies of current scholarship in queer theory. In
general, queer theory can help us begin to make sense of the
slippages between categories of sexual difference, and thereby help
us better characterize the erotic identities of Austen’s
characters. More specifically, though, and more pertinent to
this paper, recent queer scholarship on time and space makes it very
clear the degree to which the designation of “queer” can
and should be applied to subjects that do not identify as “gay”
or “lesbian.” In short, we can examine the degree
to which Anne Elliot is queer without even remotely suggesting that
she has a repressed desire to sleep with women.
Although it is true that the “homosexual” and the “heterosexual” did not exist as identity categories in Austen’s time, sexual practices were understood and judged as normative and non-normative—natural and unnatural, procreative and indulgent—and these categories of sexual practice existed in anxious tension with each other. Not only was Austen aware of the tension between normative and non-normative sexual practices, she used the word “queer” to label the latter. In Mansfield Park, for example, the frustrated Henry Crawford uses the term to question Fanny Price’s sexual inclinations: “‘What is her character?—Is she solemn?—Is she queer?—Is she prudish?’” (268). Austen’s use of the term is ambiguous, but because Henry Crawford is specifically questioning Fanny’s lack of sexual interest in him, and because the term “prudish” was itself a reference to sexual proclivities rather than just an attitude, it seems fair at least to speculate that Austen may have been using the term “queer” to connote non-normative sexual behavior.2 What makes Henry Crawford’s series of questions significant is the fact that he questions Fanny’s sexuality while also asking whether she is “solemn,” a word associated with ceremony and even religious observance. As Mary Wollstonecraft suggests in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, women were expected to focus exclusively on the present moment: “For though moralists have agreed that the tenor of life seems to prove that man is prepared by various circumstances for a future state,” writes Wollstonecraft, “they constantly concur in advising woman only to provide for the present. . . . [I]t is masculine for a woman to be melancholy” (52). Henry Crawford’s accusation of Fanny’s being “solemn”—alongside being queer and prudish—is an indication of her undesirability, a manifestation of the social expectation to which Wollstonecraft refers. Solemnity—or melancholy—is relegated to the masculine sphere and, when embodied and displayed by women, considered transgressive both in terms of the definition of sexual roles and the relationship those roles have to time.
If we are to understand the nuances of Anne and Wentworth’s sexual equality, this significant and complex relationship between sexuality and time and space needs to be interrogated further in the context of Persuasion. First, I would like to argue that Anne is a queer figure who, rather than exclusively reveling in heteroerotic pleasure, slips into a sexual identity category that Eve Sedgwick identifies as the masturbator or “onanist” (825), an identity suggested, for instance, by the sexually-charged language that characterizes the pleasure Anne feels while playing the piano. Furthermore, Anne’s erotic identity informs her employment of time and space throughout the novel. While playing the piano—while giving herself pleasure—Anne has involuntary body memories3 that allow her to reflect on but also embody past and present simultaneously. To use Heather Love’s phrase, Anne beings to “feel backward”—a non-normative way of remembering that differs from traditional memory in its preoccupation with loss and failure and in its concern with mobilizing that loss and failure for strategic purposes. In short, feeling backward allows a subject like Anne—a character who is barely noticed when she enters a room and who is manipulated into abandoning her relationship with her first love—to transform her abject marginalization into opportunity. Love writes, “Rather than disavowing the history of marginalization and abjection, I suggest that we embrace it, exploring the ways it continues to structure queer experience in the present. . . . [P]aying attention to what was difficult in the past may tell us how far we have come, but that is not all it will tell us; it also makes visible the damage that we live with in the present” (29). Nearly two hundred years before Love theorizes the transformative and redemptive potential of feeling backward, Anne uses her indulgences in melancholic despair to reassert her own agency and reignite the passion between herself and Wentworth.
backward” during her moments of playing the piano, a practice
that, in her case, I label as a masturbatory self-indulgence that
troubles heteronormative expectations of an individual’s
relationship to conventions of time and space. Articulating
this relationship between masturbation and time and space, Sedgwick
[T]here are senses
in which autoeroticism seems almost uniquely—or, at least,
distinctively—to challenge the historicizing impulse. . . .
Because it escapes both the narrative of reproduction and (when
practiced solo) even the creation of any interpersonal trace, it
seems to have an affinity with amnesia, repetition or the
repetition-compulsion, and ahistorical or history-rupturing rhetorics
of sublimity. (820)
other words, because masturbation is non-procreative and therefore
works outside of heterosexual reproduction, and because it involves
and affects no other person and therefore is an untraceable act (we
can never be sure when or where it happens), it resists being
historicized. Like the involuntary body memories that Anne has
while playing the piano, masturbation has an “affinity with
amnesia” and “repetition-compulsion”: these
are acts of solitary and self-indulgent experience and, as such,
exist outside of historical recordability.
Since Anne Elliot’s erotic identity cannot be severed from her body memories and therefore from her uses of time and space, it is not surprising that she dwells within what Judith Halberstam refers to as “queer time and space.” Halberstam defines queer time as “a term for those specific models of temporality that emerge . . . once one leaves the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance” (6). She argues that queer subjects “use space and time in ways that challenge conventional logics of development, maturity, adulthood, and responsibility” (13). In other words, the pleasure Anne gives to herself while playing the piano and traveling back and forth between past and present not only challenges the normative sexual practices of the early nineteenth century. It also, if we accept Wollstonecraft’s rendering of the relationship between gender and temporality, poses a threat to heteronormative temporality and spatiality—particular notions of time and space that are intimately connected to sex between a man and a woman and, therefore, structured around reproduction and family. In short, Anne is not queer in the sense that she experiences same-sex desire but rather because she gives pleasure to herself and refuses to relegate her mind and body to the present moment. Furthermore, as I will argue, she manages to convince Wentworth to abandon heteronormative notions of time and space and join her on her queer, backward journey. If Anne and Wentworth do become sexual equals by the end of the novel—an ideal assumption that might need to be looked at more critically—it is because they trust the queer turn backward by embracing their involuntary body memories. Thus, despite forming a heterosexual union, Anne and Wentworth challenge the sexual politics prevalent in England during the early nineteenth century.
characters overwhelmingly exemplify heteronormative notions of time
and space, preoccupied with reproductive futurity and estate
legacies. Right at the beginning of the novel, we learn that
the late Lady Elliot has been dead since 1800 and that Sir Walter
Elliot must rent Kellynch-hall out to the Crofts and move to Bath to
get out of debt. Rather than indulging in nostalgia for the
past, these characters steer straight ahead into the future.
After all, “Kellynch-hall has a respectability in itself”
(13), and the Elliots must concentrate on protecting their
patriarchal estate and elite reputations. Also within the first
few chapters, readers are introduced to a set of heteronormative
families that Austen will continue to satirize throughout the novel:
Sir Walter Elliot and his deceased wife; Admiral Croft and the wife
who sticks by his side at sea; and, perhaps the most entertaining
family, the Musgroves.
the heteronormative values that pervade the novel, Austen’s
early characterization of Anne Elliot as unique is the basis for my
claim that she can be viewed as a queer character preoccupied with a
past love rather than the future of the Kellynch-hall estate.
Anne, less glamorous than her sister Elizabeth and less needy than
her sister Mary, is presented as a perceptive outsider who reads
people around her with a critical eye and who understands how and to
what degree she stands in stark contrast to her friends and
relatives. Anne, the engaged but passive voyeur—“a
most attentive listener to the whole” (21)—decides to
herself while Lady Russell, Sir Walter Elliot and his daughter
Elizabeth, Mr. Shepherd, and Mrs. Clay discuss the imminent move to
Bath that she “disliked Bath, and did not think it agreed with
her—and Bath was to be her home” (15). Rather than
concentrating on what kind of future she will have in Bath, Anne,
unlike the others, loses herself in memories of past experiences.
Before Anne leaves for Uppercross to take care of her hypochondriac
sister Mary, and immediately after Frederick Wentworth’s
brother’s name is mentioned, we learn that Lady Russell had
forced Anne to end her engagement to her only lover and that “No
one had ever come within the Kellynch circle, who could bear a
comparison with Frederick Wentworth, as he stood in her memory”
(30). Rather than focusing on the family’s debt or the
move to Bath, Anne directs her attention to what has come before, or,
to use Heather Love’s terminology, she “feels backward.”
This feeling backward is what makes Anne stand out as one of Austen’s
most queer characters, and it also illustrates, on a smaller scale,
the way Austen will interpenetrate movement and memory throughout the
rest of the novel. In many ways, the novel is about a
melancholic but brave woman who travels back into her past so that
she can understand and critique her current moment and anticipate a
queer futurity that is not dependent on the linear, heteronormative
sequences of time and space.
despite the theme of forward movement sustained throughout most of
the novel, Anne reanimates a past that is laden with enforced
chastity, but she does so in an erotically-charged fashion, replaying
moments of past desire in her mind, as she plays the piano. Her
performances are masturbatory in Sedgwick’s sense as they are
self pleasuring, “practiced solo,” and compulsively
repetitious. The body memories that these performances evoke
rupture heteronormative modes of time and space because they preclude
the “creation of any interpersonal trace.” During
her first autoerotic piano performance,
She knew that when
she played she was giving
pleasure only to herself;
but this was no new sensation: excepting one short period of her
life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss
of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or
encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste. (50, my
“one short period” of Anne’s life, the only time
after the death of her mother she has known happiness, is that of her
engagement to Wentworth. Dwelling on this brief romantic
period, she attempts repetitiously to relive those moments, although
now alone. Thus, this solitary act of reliving the memory
through tactile stimulation—fingering the piano—elicits a
pleasurable response that she alone experiences. In essence,
Anne pleasures herself by invoking her own memory—drawing on a
past and lost love—that she can now attempt again to
experience, although imaginarily, resulting in a relationship with
time that is erotic, distinct from the normative time elsewhere
portrayed in the novel, and therefore decidedly queer.
we can accept Sedgwick’s claim that masturbation has an
“affinity with amnesia, repetition or the
repetition-compulsion,” then Anne’s masturbatory response
is also self-perpetuating: her fulfillment of desire, through
this kind of self-pleasuring, also builds into itself a kind of
constant desire. Paradoxically, then, because this desire is
self-perpetuating, while she is playing the piano, Anne finds herself
unable to escape a queer time and space; however, her piano
performance, the pleasure she gets from this masturbatory experience,
and the body memory that pulls her into the past are all fleeting at
the same time that they materialize. Anne’s habitation of
queer time and space while she is playing the piano to pleasure
herself is itself ephemeral and transient; however, because of this
same ephemeral quality of those moments, she finds herself forced
repetitiously to recreate these moments in a futile attempt to
fulfill her desirous memories. Quoting Stephen M. Barber and
David L. Clark, Halberstam characterizes queer temporality as a
that is “‘at once indefinite and virtual but also
forceful, resilient, and undeniable’” (11).4
In other words, Anne’s erotic body memories are simultaneously
ephemeral and persistent.
contrast to Anne’s body memories, which evoke in Anne an
erotic, melancholic charge, the memories of the other characters only
evoke what Jocelyn Harris calls “a melancholy artificially
While a party is discussing Frederick Wentworth’s first ship,
the Asp, Mrs. Musgrove begins to recall a dismal event from her
past: the death of her son Richard, who had earlier on the
Laconia been under Wentworth’s command. Rather than
allowing this memory to take the company back to this melancholic
point in the past, Richard is acknowledged briefly—laconically—and
as Anne feels, disingenuously, by Wentworth before the conversation
shifts back to his success as a naval captain. Anne teaches us how to
read Wentworth’s feigned condolences:
There was a
momentary expression in Captain Wentworth’s face at this
speech, a certain glance of his bright eye, and curl of his handsome
mouth, which convinced Anne, that instead of sharing in Mrs.
Musgrove’s kind wishes, as to her son, he had probably been at
some pains to get rid of him; but it was too transient an indulgence
of self-amusement to be detected by any who understood him less than
herself. . . . (73)
Anne’s piano performance, Wentworth’s expression is
momentary, ephemeral. Within two more paragraphs, everyone
stops talking about the late Richard Musgrove and redirects the
conversation to a debate about whether women should be allowed aboard
ships. Unlike the company that surrounds her at Uppercross,
Anne is comfortable vacillating back and forth among the past,
present, and future. Unlike the people around her, she uses her
historical, emotional, and bodily past to analyze the present moment
and anticipate a future that she has yet to make sense of. For
Anne, the temporal sequence is not linear; she can use her queer body
memories as a way to embrace her dismal past and bring that past into
the present moment to analyze it—remember it—in new ways.
eventually joins Anne in her resistance to conform to linear and
progressive notions of time and space, thus embracing this queer step
outside of normativity. When he and Anne, in the company of
four others, go on a long walk, Anne recites—performs to
herself—poetry from the distant past, using it to reflect on
and act within the present moment, and Wentworth makes his first
gesture toward a queer time and space, placing Anne in a carriage.
For the first time in the novel, Anne and Wentworth walk forward
together on a journey in which both Anne and Wentworth move backward
and forward at the same time. When the Crofts pull up and offer
to carry one person on the journey back to Uppercross in their
carriage, Wentworth, just as he pulls the Musgrove child from Anne’s
neck earlier in the novel (86-87), automatically places Anne in the
carriage. Austen’s third-person narrator interprets the
gesture for us, perhaps so we do not miss the point that Wentworth
and Anne are not only on the same page, but that they are both
flipping through and performing the chapters that have come before:
done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed
her there, that his will and his hands had done it. . . .
He could not forgive her,—but he could not be unfeeling.
Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and
unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though
becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer,
without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of
former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged
friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which
she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure
and pain, that she knew not which prevailed. (98)
the matter of two short sentences, Anne is placed in the carriage,
not by Wentworth himself but by his “will and his hands,”
as if to suggest that he is acting outside of the body—outside
of that specific time and space. The narrator tells us that his
gesture seemed to be the “completion of all that had gone
before,” a summation that asks us to (dis)place Wentworth’s
motivation outside of the carriage scene and within a previous
chapter of his intimate history with Anne. Reflecting the ways
in which a body memory works, the narrator offers us fragments,
separated only by semicolons, of ways to interpret Wentworth’s
action: it was the remainder of a “former sentiment,”
an “impulse” of friendship,” a “proof”
of his “amiable heart.” Obviously, these three
explanations collapse past and present: was he motivated by the
feelings he associates with the past, or did his will and hands place
Anne in the carriage because of his present impulse and amiable
Wentworth gestures toward Anne’s queer uses of time and space
on their walk, the time they spend in Lyme marks his significant
transition away from the heteronormative temporal and spatial logic
that pervades the novel. When Mr. Elliot arrives in Lyme and
takes an interest in Anne, Wentworth’s body memory recalls the
old Anne Elliot again (112). Wentworth’s memory,
appropriately placed in the middle of the novel, also happens right
before the event that steers the movement of the novel in an entirely
new direction: Louisa Musgrove’s accident. In many
ways, Louisa’s accident is a result of poor timing—Wentworth
is not ready to catch her when she jumps, just as Anne was not ready,
because of influence from Lady Russell, to move forward with
Wentworth. Only after Louisa’s accident—only after
Wentworth is put in a position in which “it could scarcely
escape him to feel” (126)—can he begin to negotiate
temporality in queer ways. Only then, Austen’s narrator
tells us, can he begin, like Anne, to feel backward, to allow the
past to make him more aware and critical in the present.
becomes a transformative space for both Anne and Wentworth; it is a
queer, liminal space—between a here and a there, a now and a
then—that fosters a more dialectic, personal relationship
between past and present. It also marks the climax of Austen’s
novel, in which meaning and action are briefly suspended and readers
are left with more questions than answers: Will Louisa Musgrove
recover? What will happen when Anne leaves Uppercross to join
her family in Bath? How will Anne and Wentworth reconcile?
last question is answered in such a way that substantiates Love’s
case for the empowering potential of melancholic memory, and Anne
realizes that potential in her interaction with Lady Russell.
The latter, in an attempt to persuade Anne to marry Mr. Elliot,
invokes the late Lady Elliot as a rhetorical appeal, attempting to
turn Anne’s queer relationship with the past against her.
Lady Russell, however, underestimates Anne’s bond with her
melancholic past and the degree to which it influences her in the
present. Lady Russell says to Anne, “‘I own that to
be able to regard you as the future mistress of Kellynch, the future
and see you occupying your dear mother’s place, succeeding to
all her rights, and all her popularity, as well as to all her
virtues, would be the highest possible gratification to me’”
(173, my emphasis). At first, it appears as if Lady Russell’s
appeal will work; for Anne, taking the place of her mother at
Kellynch-hall—a heteronormative appeal—has a “charm
which she could not immediately resist” (174).
Fortunately, the time Anne has spent confronting and embracing her
dismal past throughout the novel finally pays off in this scene in
which Austen reverses Anne and Lady Russell’s roles.
Rather than allowing Lady Russell to once again persuade her into
abandoning her love for Wentworth, the narrator writes, “The
charm of Kellynch and of ‘Lady Elliot’ all faded away.
She never could accept [Mr. Elliot]. And it was not only that
her feelings were still adverse to any man save one; her judgment, on
a serious consideration of the possibilities of such a case, was
against Mr. Elliot” (174). As Heather Love would put it,
not only does Anne’s erotic relationship with the past help her
to see how far she has come since Lady Russell first persuaded her to
end her engagement with Wentworth, her relationship to the
melancholic past, maintained through body memories, allows her to
become more aware of her current marginal position—and escape
herself acknowledges in the concert scene that her relationship to
the past is characterized by both pain and pleasure, a virtually
masochistic dynamic. Wentworth follows her in this embrace of
pain and pleasure only to a certain extent; he is comfortable doing
so only through the lens of remembering and discussing a relationship
that partly mirrors his with Anne, the new relationship between
Benwick and Louisa Musgrove. Recalling Louisa’s accident,
Wentworth says, “‘It was a frightful hour, . . .
a frightful day!’” He “passe[s] his hand
across his eyes, as if the remembrance were still too painful”
(198). Continuing to talk about Louisa and Benwick, he starts a
sentence that he cannot finish: “‘All this is much,
very much in favour of their happiness; more than perhaps—’”
(198). When discussing how Benwick could recover from the loss
of his fiancé so quickly, Wentworth makes a bold statement
that leaves Anne and readers assuming that he is drawing important
parallels between Benwick and Fanny Harville and the one he has/had
with Anne: “‘A man does not recover from such a
devotion of the heart to such a woman!—He ought not—he
does not’” (199). Anne knows that Wentworth is
finally coming to terms with his painful past, and responds
accordingly in language that describes both the time at Lyme and
their deeper past:
“The last few
hours were certainly very painful, . . . but when pain is
over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does
not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has
been all suffering, nothing but suffering—which was by no means
the case at Lyme. We were only in anxiety and distress during
the last two hours; and, previously, there had been a great deal of
the first time, Anne clearly articulates, for both Wentworth and
readers, her queer understanding of temporality and spatiality—her
erotic, borderline masochistic relationship with the past.
Although we could
probably interpret Wentworth’s averted eyes and unfinished
sentences as proof that he is—in that moment—embracing
the past with Anne, we don’t have to. Anne does the work
all, all declared
that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger,
resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded,
not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the
past; yes, some share of the tenderness of the past. She could
not contemplate the change as implying less.—He must love her.
last, Anne and Wentworth join hands in and embrace the melancholic
past; they allow it to consume them in the present moment and, as a
result, are transformed in that same moment. Whether this
transformation represents an inclination toward sexual equality
between Anne and Wentworth becomes clearer at the conclusion of the
novel when Anne and Wentworth realize that their love for each other
has never faded.
articulates the value she places upon sustaining love and desire
through body memories that are not predicated upon the physical
presence of the object of desire. While Anne and Harville
debate whether men or women are more constant in love, the latter,
quite predictably, argues that because men have stronger bodies, they
are obviously able to love longer than women—to maintain their
love even during even the “‘most rough’” and
“‘heaviest’” times (253). Anne, on the
contrary, defends her ability as a woman to love forever without a
physical object against a man’s need for such an object:
“so long as—if
I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I
mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All
the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one,
you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or
when hope is gone.” (256)
she defends her whole sex, Anne is, more accurately, defending her
ability to navigate time and space in queer ways. Her ability
to love “when existence” and “hope” are gone
parallels her ability throughout the entire novel to redirect her
attention to her bitter past—and embrace it.
he writes her a letter telling her how much he loves her and that men
are just as constant in their love as women, Wentworth finally joins
Anne completely on her venture into the nostalgic past and professes
his commitment to remaining with her on this backward journey.
When Anne sits down to read the letter in the same chair Wentworth
sat in to write it—“succeeding to the very spot where he
had leaned and written” (257)—the two of them
metaphorically embody the same space and travel back in time as one.
Anne, as she has allowed the past to consume her throughout the
novel, here “devour[s]” Wentworth’s words and, of
course, learns that he is devoutly in love with her.
Amidst the backdrop of heteronormative families, reminiscent of the beginning of the novel, Austen brings past, present, and future together in Anne and Wentworth’s final, reconciliatory scene: “There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment” (261). As Austen’s Anne Elliot demonstrates, living exclusively within and relying upon a heteronormative logic of temporality and spatiality is both too limiting and can never open up the possibility for sexual equality. Occupying a queer time and space not only opens up alternatives to how we remember the past, but it also allows us to strategically make that past act on the present moment and to negotiate dynamics of power within our intimate relationships with others. Rather than dismissing or repressing involuntary body memories, we need to embrace them, perhaps erotically, so that we can empower ourselves in relationships that came before, that are becoming, and those that will become.
I would like to thank Professors Marilyn Gaddis Rose (SUNY Binghamton) and Emily Anderson (USC), both of whom read initial drafts of this essay and helped me throughout the revision process.
1. See Harris’s more recent book, A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression: Jane Austen’s Persuasion, in which she expands and complicates her argument that Austen is advocating for sexual equality.
2. Claudia L. Johnson also cites this passage as evidence that Austen may have been using the term queer to connote non-normative sexuality. She cleverly points out that Henry Crawford’s application of “‘queer’ or ‘prudish’ to Fanny describes two traditions of Austenian reception” (28)—one that places “Austen before the advent of such ills as industrialization, dubiety, feminism, homosexuality, masturbation, the unconscious” (26), and another that is interested in exploring the degree to which Austen’s texts can be read from a queer perspective. As Johnson argues, earlier readers of Austen, such as Charlotte Bronte, also doubted Austen’s assumed normative sexuality; it is largely modern scholarship that suppresses concerns of queer sexuality as they pertain to Austen’s oeuvre (27-29).
3. “Involuntary memory” or “body memory” is memory stored in the body and triggered by the senses originally involved, a type of memory that Marcel Proust explores more fully a century later in À la recherche du temps perdu.
4. See also Barber and Clark’s “Queer Moments: The Performative Temporalities of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.”
5. Juliet McMaster also distinguishes between the real and imagined melancholy in Persuasion.
Austen, Jane. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.
Barber, Stephen M., and David L. Clark. “Queer Moments: The Performative Temporalities of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.” Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory. Ed. Stephen M. Barber and David L. Clark. New York: Routledge, 2002. 1-54.
Doody, Margaret Anne. “‘A Good Memory is Unpardonable’: Self Love, and the Irrational Irritation of Memory.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 14 (2001): 67-94.
Halberstam, Judith. In a Queer Time & Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: NYUP, 2005.
Harris, Jocelyn. Jane Austen’s Art of Memory. Cambridge: CUP, 1989.
_____. A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression: Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Newark: Delaware UP, 2007.
Johnson, Claudia L. “The Divine Miss Jane: Jane Austen, Janeites, and the Discipline of Novel Studies.” Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees. Ed. Deidre Lynch. Princeton: PUP, 2000. 25-44.
Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007.
McMaster, Juliet. Jane Austen on Love. Victoria: U of Victoria P, 1978.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl.” Critical Inquiry 17.4 (1991): 818-37.
Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel. 1957. Berkeley: U of California P, 2001.
Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and The Wrong of Woman, or Maria. Ed. Anne K. Mellor and Noelle Chao. San Francisco: Pearson, 2007.