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Rinaker, C. (1936). A Psychoanalytical Note on Jane Austen. Psychoanal Q., 5:108-115.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:108-115

A Psychoanalytical Note on Jane Austen

Clarissa Rinaker

Since the influence of deep unconscious forces on literary creation is pretty generally recognized, the study of that type of sublimation gives the psychoanalyst an opportunity to meet the layman on common ground and lead him from distrust or prejudice to a more tolerant understanding of the workings of the unconscious.

Jane Austen is particularly attractive for such a study because she is one of the most beloved and apparently "normal" of novelists, and yet the unconscious origin of both her humor and her imaginative inventions is clearly revealed in two short fantasies which can be briefly discussed. Even her admiring grand-nephews recognized in the creation of one of her heroines an unconscious influence, not however internal, but an "external force which she was powerless to resist." (1) Another relative quoted Charlotte Brontë in support of a similar suspicion: "When authors write best, or, at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them, which becomes their master—which will have its own way—putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words … new-molding characters, giving unthought-of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones." (2)

The best available evidence as to the nature and tendency of this undefined influence is contained in a letter from the novelist to her sister, Cassandra (3), and in one of her juvenile pieces (4). The letter was written under painful circumstances which were peculiarly likely to stir into activity certain repressed wishes. In November, 1800, while away from home on a visit, she had received the news that her father had suddenly decided to resign his duties at Steventon and move his family to Bath.

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