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Wiltshire, J., Pp. xiii + 251. Cambridge, New York, Oakleigh: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 30.00[pounds].
JOHN WILTSHIRE's interest in the body, as it appears in Austen's work, is socio-medical, since, he says, |I have convinced myself -- in the way of critics -- that this approach to Jane Austen's texts does bring one close . . . to the symbolic centre of her enterprise' (23). His lively Introduction gives an amusing if severely truncated account of modern notions of women's ailments -- distinguishing between illness and disease -- as these are encountered both in medical theory and in literature, focusing finally, of course, upon the idea of symbol in Austen. Only in the last few lines does the word |symbol' make its ominous appearance, but it proves in the event to be insignificant.
Chapter 1 (|Sense, sensibility and the proofs of affection') offers an excellently conducted reading of the first published novel; Austen's careful balancing of defective sensibility in Marianne with defective sense in Elinor has not, I think, ever been argued more trenchantly. The only blurring occurs in one or two passages in which Wiltshire incautiously allows himself to be drawn into over-large generalizations …