Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"One of these two is a fanciful, troublesome creature": Ambiguity and interpretive control in Jane Austen's "Emma"

While discussing the loss of the newly married Mrs. Weston's constant company with Mr. Knightley in Jane Austen's "Emma", Emma Woodhouse says of herself and her father that "one of those two is a fanciful, troublesome creature." Her father thinks she means him: "I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful and troublesome." Here, the ambiguous "one of those two" offers two interpretations: Emma means herself, while Mr. Woodhouse might be recognizing his own "fanciful, troublesome" characteristics. But Emma immediately asserts interpretive control with her insistence that neither she nor Mr. Knightley sees him that way. Ambiguity, then, offers room first for interpretation and then for the assertion of interpretive authority. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 January 2021)


Mr. Woodhouse is not at all pleased with Emma's ... 

Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse in Jim O'Hanlon's 2009 BBC serial of Emma.

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