Jane Austen has been thought of as a novelist of manners whose work discreetly avoids discussing the physical. John Wiltshire shows, on the contrary, how important are bodies and faces, illness and health, in the novels, from complainers and invalids such as Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Woodhouse, to the frail, debilitated Fanny Price, the vulnerable Jane Fairfax and the "picture of health," Emma. The book draws on modern theories of the body, and on eighteenth-century medical sources, to give a fresh and controversial reading of familiar texts.
"An original and satisfying study, written in a style graced by wit and clarity." American Library Association "...a fine book, informed and sensitive, and it throws a spotlight on an aspect of Austen's work all too rarely noticed." Juliet McMaster, Eighteenth-Century Fiction "...Wiltshire possesses an exemplary grasp of recent scholarship in the history of medicine, while avoiding exaggerated claims for Austen as an interpreter of science and medicine. Not least, this engaging book displays a commendable capacity to analyze the role played by body language and corporeality in the early novel, while avoiding the mystifying jargon that scars so many literary studies of the body." Roy Porter, Isis "John Wiltishire's analysis is both innovative and probing..." Judith Hattaway, English Language Notes