Evert Jan van Leeuwen | Public Similarity or Private Difference: Genre, and the Construction of Individual Identity in Jane Austen and Charles Brockden Brown


This essay responds to Richard Handler’s work on individual identity construction in Jane Austen’s novels. Handler describes the mode of identity construction in Austen as a process of public recognition of similarity to others in society, and argues that this was the dominant mode of identity construction in Austen’s time. An analysis of the Gothic novel Wieland, by Austen’s American contemporary Charles Brockden Brown, will show, however, that through his utilisation of the Gothic trope of the mysterious wanderer, the novel is able to offer a dissident model of individual identity construction based on the private recognition of difference to others in society.

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