Resuscitating the Epistolary Form: The Use of Letters in Jane Austen’s Novels and Their Modern Retellings

This thesis explores three contemporary American authors of young adult fiction. It demonstrates how each made a conscious decision to invoke Jane Austen, retell her stories, and deploy her literary technique to locate meaning in present-day adolescent experience. The specific literary technique that the thesis examines is the epistolary form, which Jane Austen rescued from obsolescence. In the early nineteenth century, the British writer reworked the outdated epistolary form, mixing first-person letters into her third-person narrative stories to develop characters and advance her plots. In the present day, a handful of young adult fiction writers have become inspired to situate some of Austen’s famous plotlines in modern American settings. These novels retain the essence of Austen’s original story while reworking the epistolary form still further, revealing in the process Jane Austen’s enduring influence and relevance. In particular, this study pairs three Austen novels with their modern retellings: Pride and Prejudice with Emma Mills’s First & Then, Emma with Jillian Cantor’s The Code for Love and Heartbreak, and Persuasion with Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars. In each case, this thesis examines how Austen’s reimagining of the epistolary form continues to affect modern American writers. These three young adult novels use a variety of modern communication methods to retell Austen’s stories, achieving a variety of effects that bring Austen’s stories smoothly into the current world and provide new lessons for all readers.

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Work Title Resuscitating the Epistolary Form: The Use of Letters in Jane Austen’s Novels and Their Modern Retellings
Access
Penn State
Creators
  1. Kristina Stokes
Keyword
  1. epistolary
  2. letters
  3. retelling
  4. Austen
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives)
Work Type Masters Thesis
Publication Date December 2021
Subject
  1. Literature
Language
  1. English
Deposited October 27, 2021

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