I have been a passionate reader and scholar of Jane Austen and other Romantic-era women writers for many years.
My current research investigate the origins of feminist legal philosophy in the novels of Jane Austen and other Romantic women novelists, as well as contemporary philosophers. My article ‘Jane Austen, Feminist Legal Philosopher’ in Jane Austen and Critical Theory (2021) explores Austen’s critique of the public/private dichotomy in Pride and Prejudice and the ethic of care in Emma.
My research into Romantic women’s writing and feminist legal philosophy builds on my earlier research on Jane Austen and masculinity. I completed my PhD on this topic at the University of Wollongong in 2008, and published my book Jane Austen’s Men: Rewriting Masculinity in the Romantic Era in 2020. )
Jane Austen’s Men explores how Jane Austen scrutinises, satirises, censures and ultimately rewrites masculinity in the socially, politically and culturally turbulent Romantic era.
Austen pioneers and celebrates a new vision of masculinity that could complement the Romantic desire for agency, individualism and selfhood embodied in her heroines.
This book isn’t just about Austen. I also reveal in new ways the depth of her engagement with her predecessors and contemporaries, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane West and Jane Porter, on critical questions of masculinity and its relationship to femininity and narrative form.
Reviews of Jane Austen’s Men
“In Jane Austen’s Men: Rewriting Masculinity for the Romantic Era, Sarah Ailwood demolishes once and for all the notion that Jane Austen did not understand men. In this engaging, deeply perceptive book, she argues that Austen undertook the inherently risky task of re-creating a psychologically complex masculinity to complement women’s individual agency and subjectivity. Companionate marriage, in Austen’s reworking of the romantic courtship novel, looks both attractive and startlingly modern.”
– Jocelyn Harris, Professor Emerita, University of Otago
My other writing on Jane Austen’s men:
Sarah Ailwood, ‘”Too much in the common Novel style”: Reforming Masculinities in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility‘, Women Constructing Men: Female Novelists and their Male Characters, ed. Sarah S. G. Frantz and Katharine Rennhak (Lexington: Lanham, Maryland, 2010) 67-82
Sarah Ailwood, “What are men to rocks and mountains?” Romanticism in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice“, Persuasions On-Line 27(2) (2007)