Title

“Of the Greatest Influence with Everybody”: Persuasion in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Presenter Information

Matthew Montoya

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 140

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

Critics often view the titles of Jane Austen's novels as indicative of important themes. This is particularly true for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. While Austen's Persuasion also seems to boast a thematically significant title, critics have largely ignored this novel, the importance of its title, and its primary implications. Persuasion chronicles the attempts of several characters within a close-knit social circle to persuade one another to think or act differently. Yet persuasive acts are not only limited to the characters in this novel�"the narrator also attempts to persuade the reader to trust certain assumptions, some of which prove false at the end of the novel. In the proposed paper, I will explore these various instances of persuasion, both between characters and between narrator and reader. I will also explore the consequences of each instance for those involved. Next, I will show how each example of persuasion works in harmony with the others to teach us several important lessons. First, the examples teach us the importance of understanding another's motives before allowing that person to convince us. Second, the examples show us that any persuasion carried out on our behalf, even when conducted with the best intentions, may nonetheless impede our progress or obscure our vision of truth. Finally, the examples reveal to us our ability to persuade ourselves into adopting certain attitudes, and how this self-persuasion can have a positive or negative effect on our lives.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Christine Sutphin

Additional Mentoring Department

English

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May 17th, 9:10 AM May 17th, 9:30 AM

“Of the Greatest Influence with Everybody”: Persuasion in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

SURC 140

Critics often view the titles of Jane Austen's novels as indicative of important themes. This is particularly true for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. While Austen's Persuasion also seems to boast a thematically significant title, critics have largely ignored this novel, the importance of its title, and its primary implications. Persuasion chronicles the attempts of several characters within a close-knit social circle to persuade one another to think or act differently. Yet persuasive acts are not only limited to the characters in this novel�"the narrator also attempts to persuade the reader to trust certain assumptions, some of which prove false at the end of the novel. In the proposed paper, I will explore these various instances of persuasion, both between characters and between narrator and reader. I will also explore the consequences of each instance for those involved. Next, I will show how each example of persuasion works in harmony with the others to teach us several important lessons. First, the examples teach us the importance of understanding another's motives before allowing that person to convince us. Second, the examples show us that any persuasion carried out on our behalf, even when conducted with the best intentions, may nonetheless impede our progress or obscure our vision of truth. Finally, the examples reveal to us our ability to persuade ourselves into adopting certain attitudes, and how this self-persuasion can have a positive or negative effect on our lives.