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Jane Austen's Discourse with New Rhetoric

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Lynn R. Rigberg

Jane Austen's Discourse with New Rhetoric identifies major considerations in Jane Austen's novels with those of eighteenth-century Scottish New Rhetoric. Austen uses fictional examples to argue the development of moral understanding in both sexes by educating them in rhetorical subjects found in Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres and George Campbell's The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Her own stance, closely allied to the empiricist thinking from which Campbell's rhetorical philosophy derives, shares with his presentation an infusion of rationalism that separates Campbell's philosophy from David Hume's skepticism. As Austen's novels test the rhetorician's premises, her picture of rhetoric evolves into a representation beyond their limits, and the limits of her own time and place.