rhizomes.02 spring 2001

A Nomadic Austen:
Imagining Radical Malleability in Persuasion
Michael Kramp

"History is always written from the sedentary point of view and in the name of a unitary State apparatus, at least a possible one, even when the topic is nomads. What is lacking is a Nomadology, the opposite of history" (Deleuze and Guattari A Thousand Plateaus 23).

"Revolutionaries often forget, or do not like to recognize, that one wants and makes revolution out of desire, not duty" (Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus 366).

"Let me begin with a map of very well-known novels: figure I, which shows the places where Jane Austen's plots (or more exactly, their central thread, the heroine's story) begin and end. Northanger Abbey, for instance, begins at Fullerton and ends at Woodston; Sense and Sensibility, at Norland Park and at Delaford; and so on for the others (except Persuasion, whose endpoint is left rather vague)." (Moretti 13).

"There is a new element in Persuasion. [Austen] is beginning to discover that the world is larger, more mysterious, and more romantic than she had supposed" (Woolf 147).

[1] Virginia Woolf's comment on the novelty of Persuasion invites us to consider exactly what is involved in the "larger, more mysterious, and more romantic" world that Austen discovers in her final completed work. Like all of Austen's tales, Persuasion is a well-controlled courtship story with the required conjugal end; and while Anne Elliot does represent a new kind of mature heroine, the complexity of Persuasion incorporates much more than an older female figure. In this novel, Austen dramatizes the collapse of one world and the burgeoning forth of a new. She shows the fall of a culture built upon social rank and inherited status, and the emergence of a more complicated social system in which individual identity is neither easily demarcated nor fixed. As a distinct heroine, Anne is a member of this new world, and she is joined by her lover, Captain Wentworth. Wentworth is likewise a distinct hero who successfully adapts many features of his naval experience to a domestic setting. He learns that the participants in this newly-emerging community must be flexible individuals willing to accept dynamic and constant change. As a sailor, Wentworth understands the significance of perpetual movement on the sea, and he also comes to appreciate the diversity and adaptability of Anne. Austen offers us the necessary marital conclusion to her plot, but in this marriage she imagines the potential of a new kind of social/sexual identity and a new kind of relationship. The hero and heroine eventually express and embrace their love for each other, revealing the latent multiplicity involved in themselves and promoting a union that is ductile. Austen allows Anne and Wentworth to audition a revolutionary nomadic life: they refuse to remain rooted to a single domain, and this "nautical" existence provides them with the opportunity to explore the possibility of new desires and becomings.

[2] This prospect of such radical malleability is especially potent because of the social transformation that Austen documents in novel. Nina Auerbach's groundbreaking essay, "O Brave New World: Evolution and Revolution in Persuasion," announced that the novelist's final completed tale offered a new world "guided by emotion and vision . . . . governed by nature and by human desire" (116). [1] Auerbach adds that those "who cannot accommodate themselves to these laws . . . are threatened and deprived of power" (117). Austen reveals the emergence of desiring subjects and the collapse of traditional authority; the revolutionary emotion of Anne and Wentworth overwhelms the atrophying world of Sir Walter. Tony Tanner explains that Persuasion "shows that English society is . . . 'in between': in between an old social order in a state of decline and desuetude, and some now 'modern' society of as yet uncertain values" (249). Anne and Wentworth represent this new and unfinished modern culture, and their nautical existence offers a clear juxtaposition to the deteriorating social structure of the aristocracy. Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and their cadre attempt to uphold established statuses, while Anne and Wentworth's union offers us a vision of new world of pliability still in the process of becoming. This developing society values the possibility of new relationships between diverse people. Auerbach concludes that "the navy is Jane Austen's vision of a brave new world" (123). While the navy is extremely important both to the plot of Persuasion and the historical context of the narrative, Austen's novelistic "new world" is more inclusive. Anne and Wentworth's malleable lifestyles certainly show the influence of the naval community, but they also demonstrate how a variety of individuals can experience a maritime way of life on land.

[3] The navy ultimately serves as a symbol of this nascent civilization. As the marriage of Anne and Wentworth offers us an image of the potential for subjects to embrace change and ductility, the navy provides us with a more concrete image of what this existence might involve. Roger Sales explains that the navy and its members "hold out the promise of a more open society" (187). The naval community is an integral part of the new world of Persuasion, and as Peter King suggests, the navy played an important role in the production of the novel and in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. King notes that the social transformation we observe in the novel involves the passing "of the discredited feudal hierarchy" and the rise of "an institution which had just recently given ample proof of its many-sided competence." King claims that Austen's text reveals that "England will need leadership in the century now opening up, and that the men who defeated Napoleon provide a corporate model of exactly what is required" (300). The return of sailors from war is a historical phenomenon that affects the narrative of Persuasion, but the naval attributes of pliability and perpetual motion, adapted to a domestic setting by Anne, Wentworth, and others, provide an image of a possible future existence. David Monaghan points out that "sailors are unable to establish permanent homes or to conduct well-regulated lives." While their constant movement prevents them from "[gaining] an understanding of the finer points of social intercourse," this perpetual motion enables them to remain flexible and unfixed (Monaghan 155). Tanner indicates that the navy "[brings] back with them a wholly different scheme of values, and a potentially new model of an alternative society or community, alive and functioning where the traditional land society seemed to be moribund and largely 'stagnant'" (228). Anne and Wentworth assume these radical features of the naval community, and through their mobility, prefigure a nomadic marriage and elastic subjectivities.

[4] Wentworth and Anne embrace the malleability of the navy, but it is their powerful amorous emotions for each other that enable us to imagine their desires and relations as potentially diverse and (re)generative. Deleuze and Guattari insist that to love an other is to "extract him or her from a group, however small, in which he or she participates . . . to find that person's own packs, the multiplicities he or she encloses within himself or herself which may be of an entirely different nature. To join them to mine, to make them penetrate mine, and for me to penetrate the other person's" (A Thousand Plateaus 35). The marriage between hero and heroine which ends Persuasion anticipates a radically new world in which individuals might engage and enhance the complexity of each other through love. This new world is both a reaction to and a revolution against the antiquated world of Sir Walter. Sales asserts that Sir Walter's world is organized around a system of "predestination ... Destinies are determined at birth" (187). Anne and Wentworth are not interested in such stability and structure; they represent a new community rooted in diversity, motion, and change. Their relationship will inevitably involve such perpetual movement, but their love is itself potentially radical, for as Deleuze and Guattari remind us, "love and desire exhibit reactionary, or else revolutionary indices ... where persons give way to decoded flows of desire" (Anti-Oedipus 366). The hero and heroine labor throughout the novel to express their love for each other; when they finally divulge their powerful feelings, they allow themselves to live a nautical existence on land. The close of the novel provides a momentary image of revolutionary love: Anne and Wentworth remain in the social community, but they are unrooted and free to experience and pursue potent desires.

[5] The novel's conclusion, complemented by Austen's favorable depiction of the naval community, prefigures an incomplete, but nevertheless burgeoning, nomadic societ--a community characterized by what Deleuze and Guattari term "nomadic waves or flows of deterritorialization" (A Thousand Plateaus 53). The union of Anne and Wentworth anticipates a world free from the territorializing power of arcane social structures. Like deterritorialized subjects, they can change and perpetually develop anew. Deleuze and Guattari indicate that "only nomads have absolute movement . . . . nomads have no points, paths, or land, even though they do by all appearances. If the nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence, it is precisely because there is no reterritorialization afterward" (A Thousand Plateaus 381). Austen does not present Anne and Wentworth as fully deterritorialized beings removed completely from the productions of the social machine, but the novelist does provide a vision of a new kind of relationship in their nautical existence. Anne and Wentworth are not positioned in a stable domestic setting at the story's conclusion; they are not immediately reterritorialized by the domesticating culture of the nineteenth century. Deleuze and Guattari conclude that "the maximum deterritorialization appears in the tendency of maritime and commercial towns to separate off from the backcountry, from the countryside" (A Thousand Plateaus 432). It is this notion of separation from an already- entrenched society that Austen illustrates in her final completed novel. Wentworth and Anne remain within English culture, but they have clearly broken from the stagnant civilization of Sir Walter. Franco Moretti claims that Austen's novels occupy "a middle- sized world" in which characters are uncertain of the potential activities of others. According to Moretti, "this moderate uncertainty shows that distance has been brought down to earth; it can be measured, understood" (22). In Persuasion, however, we are unable to map the potential movement of Anne and Wentworth. We are uncertain of their future plans as they have removed themselves from the archaic and determinating social structures of the order in decay.

[6] While the marriage that ends Persuasion imagines such exciting revolutionary possibilities, our introduction to Wentworth, Anne, and their relationship revolves around frustration and disappointment. The novelist tells us that almost eight years ago Anne and Wentworth "were gradually acquainted, and when acquainted, rapidly and deeply in love" (30). Austen momentarily adopts the style and narrative technique of Sir Walter Scott's romances: Wentworth is a common man who has ingratiated himself to a wealthy and powerful family. He is described as "a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend himself, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in that profession .... a stranger without alliance or fortune" (30). Despite his mundane and fortune-less status, Wentworth, like any aspiring romantic hero, is certain that he will succeed and become wealthy and important. Austen explains: "Captain Wentworth had no fortune .... But, he was confident that he should soon be rich;--full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to every thing he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still." Anne is attracted to this impressive young man. She admires his "confidence," but the heroine's trusted advisor, Lady Russell, translates Wentworth's "confidence" as a "sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind." Lady Russell claims that although Wentworth "was brilliant, he was headstrong" (30). [2] The same brash enthusiasm that attracts Anne, frightens the cautious Lady Russell, who persuades our heroine to dismiss the ambitious but financially insecure sailor. Austen, through this recollected scene, highlights both the romance and the disappointment of the early relationship. Wentworth behaved as a romantic hero who disregarded social propriety in the name of love, ambition, and desire--and Anne admired this behavior; however, their desires are frustrated by the authority of Anne's aristocratic family. Our hero, angered by the heroine's supposed passivity and "feeling himself ill-used by so forced a relinquishment ... left the country in consequence" (31). The novelist depicts these early scenes as archetypal moments from a romance plot, but the desires of Anne and Wentworth will not accommodate this easily predictable narrative structure.

[7] Although Austen narrates the disappointment involved in Wentworth and Anne's early relationship, the novelist is careful to mention occasionally their extant emotion for each other. She insists that "[Wentworth] had not forgiven Anne Elliot" (62). Anne reflects on their prior relationship, and "felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind, that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from conceiving it to be of equal pain" (63). The heroine also observes the hero's feeling for her during the return from their lengthy walk to the Hayters: "She saw how her own character was considered by Captain Wentworth; and there had been just that degree of feeling and curiosity about her in his manner, which must give her extreme agitation" (87). This feeling leads Wentworth to arrange for Anne to ride home from the outing with the beneficent Crofts. Austen informs us that "Captain Wentworth, without saying a word, turned to her, and quietly obliged her to be assisted into the carriage. Yes, --he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there." Anne is clearly affected by this gesture of kindness and reflects: "He could not forgive her, --but he could not be unfeeling. Though condemning her for the past ... he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of former sentiment" (89). Austen carefully narrates this scene to reveal the remaining sentiments shared between Anne and Wentworth--powerful sentiments that will aid their efforts to promote the possibility of a nomadic marital union.

[8] We receive important glimpses of such a relationship in the Lyme scenes which close the first volume of Persuasion. It is in Lyme where Austen outlines various features of the nomadic life that she imagines for the marriage of Anne and Wentworth. Austen describes the "principal streets [of Lyme] almost hurrying into the water" (93). This mingling of earth and sea anticipates her depiction of the naval community's ability to transfer the values of a maritime existence to a domestic setting, and as Monica F. Cohen argues, Persuasion offers "perhaps the first literary merging of the sea and the home" (347). Anne is very impressed by the congeniality of Wentworth's naval friends, the Harvilles, who welcome Anne and her extended family into their domestic dwelling. The Harvilles have learned to transfer the fluidity of the sea to the land, as they accept other people openly, regardless of their (pre)determined social and sexual statuses. The heroine indicates that "nothing could be more pleasant than their desire of considering the whole party as friends of their own, because the friends of Captain Wentworth" (95). Anne is drawn to the unaffected charm of the Harvilles, noting how different it is from "the usual style of give-and-take invitations, and dinners of formality and display" (96). The "domesticated" naval community, unlike Anne's antiquated family, is not interested in elaborate social gatherings. The Harvilles and Wentworth act with simplicity, sincerity, and flexibility. Sales argues that "the naval officers," in contrast to Sir Walter and his followers, "inhabit a world which values comradeship or partnership" (182). Tanner adds that "it is the navy who . . . reconstitute a meaningful domesticity, recreate the ideas of home, ultimately redefine the notion of society itself" (224). Austen favorably presents the naval community as Deleuzan packs; its members freely accept individuals, creating a community unconcerned with social rank. [3] This radical flexibility and open reception of others strongly influence the malleable love-relationship of Anne and Wentworth.

[9] Anne is impressed by the camaraderie and ductility of the naval community; our heroine is equally impressive in her versatile actions during the panic that follows Louisa Musgrove's fall. As Wentworth endures an overwhelming emotional experience, Anne illustrates her resourcefulness by calling for a surgeon (107). Louisa's fall from the Cobb serves to "teach" Wentworth the liability of proud resolution and the importance of Anne's adaptability that allows her to manage a moment of crisis and disruption. Anne is able to accept the disorderly flows of energy produced by this unpredicted emergency, and Wentworth appreciates this elasticity. He makes arrangements for informing the Musgrove family and transporting his companions home, but he also requests that Anne remain with the Harvilles to assist in the care of Louisa: "if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne! . . . . You will stay, I am sure; you will stay and nurse her;' cried he, turning to her and speaking with a glow, and yet a gentleness, which seemed almost restoring the past" (111). While the visit to Lyme begins with Anne's admiration of Wentworth's naval community, by the end of this tour Wentworth renews his admiration of Anne, specifically her ability to embrace dynamic experiences and unstable circumstances.

[10] Wentworth's renewed fondness for Anne becomes much more apparent following the hero's arrival in Bath. When he first encounters the heroine here, the novelist records that "he was more obviously struck and confused by the sight of [Anne], than she had ever observed before; he looked quite red." Austen adds that "Time had changed him, or Louisa had changed him. There was consciousness of some sort or other. He looked very well, not as if he had been suffering in health or spirits . . . yet it was Captain Wentworth not comfortable, not easy, not able to feign that he was" (166). He clearly maintains strong feelings for Anne and he is physically affected by her presence. Austen illustrates again his new appreciation of the heroine when she later spots the hero amongst a group of naval officers. The novelist relates that he "was preparing only to bow and pass on, but [Anne's] gentle 'How do you do?' brought him out of the straight line to stand near her, and make enquiries in return, in spite of the formidable father and sister in the back ground" (171). Wentworth foregoes the chivalric routin--a form of behavior standard in the decaying world of Sir Walte--in favor of respectful communication. He now accepts the importance of pursuing emotions, and he does not shy away from the opportunity to talk with Anne; Austen reports that the heroine "was expecting him to go every moment; but he did not; he seemed in no hurry to leave her." Wentworth openly discusses the turmoil and pain of their recent trip to Lyme, concluding that "the day has produced some effects however--has had some consequences which must be considered as the very reverse of frightful" (172). Wentworth's comment suggests his emerging understanding of the need to embrace unexpected events and surprising emotions--in domestic settings as well as on the open sea. Anne reflects upon the alteration in Wentworth's behavior and concludes that "all, all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least; that anger, resentment, avoidance, were no more; and that they were succeeded, not merely by friendship and regard, but by the tenderness of the past; yes, some share of the tenderness of the past. She could not contemplate the change as implying less. --He must love her" (175). The heroine likewise accepts her strong feelings and identifies the powerful emotions of her lover. Anne and Wentworth remind themselves of their amorous interest in each other, and they begin to comprehend the potency of their desires, particularly the potential of such desires to enable them to "become nomadic."

[11] Wentworth's letter to Anne allows him the opportunity to express his emotion for the heroine. Austen masterfully positions the writing of this letter alongside Anne and Harville's discussion about the duration of amorous feelings--a conversation in which the heroine broaches her passion for the hero. Anne charges that men are quicker to forego amorous emotions than women, instructing Harville that "We certainly do not forget you, so soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us" (219). Anne claims that women maintain a stronger attachment to previously felt emotions than men, and her language suggests her extant feelings for Wentworth. The heroine, moreover, identifies the domestic setting with a woman's solitary existence, but as we have seen, Austen's presentation of the navy offers us a new vision of domesticity mingled with the sea. And Harville attempts to counter Anne's argument by employing a maritime image. He declares: "if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, 'God knows whether we ever meet again!'" (221). Harville's response reminds us of both the historical importance of the navy to Persuasion and the nautical existence that both he and Wentworth have lived over the past eight years. Harville's declaration also helps us imagine the emotion experienced by Wentworth during his time in the navy. Wentworth authors his letter to the heroine while overhearing this dialogue, and his epistle to the heroine is clearly affected by the conversation. He writes:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan .... I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. (223)

Wentworth adopts the discourse of a lover. He uses a vocabulary of passion and desperation, demonstrating his continued powerful emotion for the heroine--emotion that he claims has remained constant. Wentworth's revelation also exposes the breadth of his emotions: he has been both weak and embittered, and he again offers himself to the heroine. This exposure is both potent and dangerous; it illustrates the sincerity of his feelings, but it also promotes the volatility and pliability of his social/sexual subjectivity. He is not secure, and he cannot promise Anne "stability." He, like Anne, is a dynamic and ductile lover, and this mutual malleability will prove essential to the nomadic possibilities of their future life.

[12] Such unplanned movement is immediately foreshadowed when the hero, soon after delivering his letter, approaches Anne and Charles Musgrove. Charles inquires about Wentworth's intended direction, thinking he may be able to relinquish the duty of escorting Anne. Charles asks: "Captain Wentworth, which way are you gong? only to Gay-street, or farther up the town?." Wentworth responds: "I hardly know" (226). Wentworth's lack of knowledge about his future plans anticipates his domestic life with Anne, a life that will not be structured or organized around the desires of a failing social system. Directly after this comment, Austen notes that Anne and Wentworth

exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure every thing, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past ... more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment, more equal to act, more justified in acting. (226-27)

Anne and Wentworth renew their amorous emotions, but they are more "tender" and "tried;" they do not shy away from such powerful and potentially overwhelming feelings. They have experienced a diversity of sensations, and they now have a greater sensitivity to and appreciation for these experiences. In addition, they now feel comfortable and even compelled to act on their desires. Wentworth notes that "only at Uppercross had he learnt to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he begun to understand himself" (228). At Uppercross, he realized that Anne's early decision to relinquish their relationship was not simply a result of her weakness, and at Lyme, he realized his need for others as well as the great flexibility of the heroine. Wentworth's letter to and subsequent conversation with the heroine illustrate their ability to embrace powerful desires that cultivate the latent volatility and diversity of their future union.

[13] Anne and Wentworth's love eventually leads to their marriage, but unlike other Austen stories, the novelist does not place her hero and heroine within a stable and permanent domestic setting. As Julia Prewitt Brown argues, "Persuasion is the only one of the novels that ends with a vague ignorance of where the hero and heroine are going to live, and even of what the years will bring for them" (140). Austen does not install Anne and Wentworth in a secure domain, but the novelist does acknowledge the power of their emotions to dictate their behavior. She questions: "Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point" (233). Austen permits the romantic quality of her story to drive its conclusion, but she is careful not to construct an archetypal end to her marriage plot. Her closing remarks highlight both the radical movement and the potency of the desires involved in Wentworth and Anne's relationship. The novelist concludes that Anne "was tenderness itself .... [and] the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession, which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance" (237). Anne and Wentworth accept the realities of their nautical lifestyle, but according to Austen, the values associated with this maritime culture are more important on land. Wentworth and Anne are not rooted to a domestic sphere; they are removed from the territorializing structures of the decaying entrenched society. Wentworth must always be ready to move, and Anne must endure the "dread" of her sailor-husband's potential quick departure. This continued possibility of motion and the radical malleability it requires enable Anne and Wentworth to embrace features of a nomadic existence. Prewitt Brown concludes that "Persuasion is Jane Austen's most 'modern' work" (128). While Austen's final completed novel delineates a modernizing society and prefigures various future possibilities, she leaves her vision incomplete. She does not provide us with a complete Nomadology as theorized by Deleuze and Guattari, but she does offer an image of what a nomadic life might entail.

[14] Wentworth and Anne embark on a maritime journey that is sure to include fluctuations and permutations. After this novel, Austen continues her literary journey to the sea, and in her final work, the unfinished comic tale Sanditon, she relates the strange tale of a coastal resort town. Sanditon is a sea-side settlement, but I would be surprised to find Anne and Wentworth spending much time in the company of Lady Denham and the Parker family. Austen presents Sanditon as a maritime community that has become infected by modern capitalism. When Mr. Parker returns from his failed effort to acquire a surgeon, he rides through the older section of Sanditon and announces: "Civilization, Civilization indeed! ... Look my dear Mary--Look at William Heeley's windows. -- Blue Shoes, and nankin Boots!--Who would have expected such a sight at a Shoemaker's in old Sanditon! --This is new within the Month. There was no blue Shoe when we passed this way a month ago.--Glorious indeed!." Mr. Parker is thrilled with the economic growth of the village. He revels in this burgeoning mercantilism and reflects, "Well, I think I have done something in my Day. Now, for our Hill, our health- breathing Hill" (339). Mr. Parker takes great pride in the financial maturation of the town, and looks forward with much anticipation to the modernization of the "Hill." He and his business partner, Lady Denham, are speculators who have invested in Sanditon, and they are confident that this speculation is both wise and profitable. Parker and Denham, rather than allowing their intimacy with the sea to enhance their separation from the produced desires of a disciplinary society, desperately hope and scrupulously plan to bring modern civilization to the sea.

[15] Mr. Parker is certain that Sanditon will succeed as a seaside resort town, and he proudly tells Mr. Heywood early in the narrative that "everybody has heard of Sanditon ... the favorite spot of all that are to be found along the coast of Sussex" (325). Mr. Heywood acknowledges that he has "heard of Sanditon," but he is not convinced of the continued prosperity of such communities. He explains that "every five years, one hears of some new place or other starting up by the Sea, and growing the fashion . --How they can half of them be filled, is the wonder! Where people can be found with Money or Time to go to them! Bad things for a Country; --sure to raise the price of Provisions and make the poor good for nothing." Mr. Heywood is concerned about the social viability and utility of such maritime settlements; he finds them detrimental to the sustenance of the state economy and especially hazardous to the management of the poor. Mr. Parker agrees that the English coast has become overpopulated, indicating that "our Coast is abundant enough; it demands no more [settlements] . . . . And those good people who are trying to add to the number are in my opinion excessively absurd, and must soon find themselves the Dupes of their own fallacious Calculations" (325). Parker is equally critical of these sundry seaside communes that threaten to damage the continued growth and stability of a post-Revolutionary England, but he upholds Sanditon as the necessary release from a safe mundane existence--with just the requisite amount of modernity thrown in to guarantee order, propriety, and discipline. And yet, despite Parker's and Heywood's criticism, the nation has witnessed a proliferation of these colonies on the ocean. This dialogue may occupy only a small section of Austen's uncompleted final work, but it suggests the author's keen knowledge of a growing number of coastal cooperatives--groups of people who have disregarded social security in favor of the freedom and fluidity of the sea. Wentworth and Anne will not be found in the modernizing village and hill of Sanditon, but you may spot them in the streets of one of the many smaller underdeveloped encampments. They could not explore their potential malleability in Sanditon, but these smaller communities, dubbed as political and economic liabilities, are certain to support the requisite flexibility of a nomadic lifestyle.

[16] These smaller seaside settlements that have separated from the established social structure have the capacity to allow Anne, Wentworth, and others to audition new modes of existence. Foucault is extremely excited about the vast potential of such social experimentation. He bemoans that "we live in a legal, social, and institutional world where the only relations possible are, extremely simplified, and extremely poor .... Society and the institutions which frame it have limited the possibility of relationships because a rich relational world would be very complex to manage." Foucault is concerned with the sterile state of relations in modern culture and insists that "we should fight against the impoverishment of the relational fabric." He believes we "should try to imagine and create a new relational right that permits all possible types of relations to exist" ("The Social Triumph" 158). Wentworth and Anne's relationship has the potential to encompass such a diversity of possibilities. They are not fixed to specific locations and identities that require definitive relations with each other and their community. They can resist entrenched social/sexual subject positions, and this fluidity, while complex and difficult to manage, is ultimately fecund. Foucault explains that "we must not exclude identity if people find their pleasure through this identity, but we must not think of this identity as an ethical universal rule .... it limits us, and I think we have--and can have--a right to be free" ("Sex, Power, and the Politics" 166). Foucault allows that some may gain much pleasure from their own identities, but he, like Austen, maintains that in the newly emerging world, we need not require individuals to acquire and sustain one (pre)determined status. We must be free to audition new roles and relations which may induce new sensations, new pleasures, and new desires.

[17] Wentworth and Anne's nautical marriage provides them with the opportunity to explore new relations with each other. Austen suggests that they avoid a stagnant relationship and, like a Deleuzan nomad, they embrace the movement of the sea. While they are not yet nomads, they show us what me must first do to prepare ourselves for such a radical existence. Deleuze explains that he is interested in the potential of nomads "because they're a becoming and aren't part of history; they're excluded from it, but they transmute and reappear in different, unexpected forms in the lines of flight of some social field" ("On Philosophy" 153). Anne and Wentworth may not be able to follow completely Deleuze and Guattari's Nomadology, but they will not be participants in the atrophying world of the past; they are members of a new society freed from predetermined roles and ranks. They pursue new lines of flight that promise to facilitate new becomings, and as Deleuze notes, "men's only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming" ("Control and Becoming" 171). Deleuze believes we must resist the controlling power of socially-produced desires in order to retain our freedom to continually become anew. Such perpetual permutation prevents the social field from organizing our desires and creating our lacks; we remain fluid and free to adopt new identities and engage in new relations. Austen's depiction of Wentworth and Anne's marriage provides a glimpse of this versatility, and the novelist's mention of the many smaller coastal settlements in Sanditon suggests that this nomadic ambition is growing. Wentworth, Anne, and their fellow "nomads" are not installed in domestic domains; rather they accept an unpredictable lifestyle complete with dynamic fluctuations and persistent instability.

[18] But modern civilization has little patience for this radically fluid coastal lifestyle. Modernity demands stable social agents who are secure, static, and singular. The United States of the late twentieth-century actually turned to Austen as a trusted advisor who can reputedly teach us how to achieve such safe modes of being. Literary and social critics alike love to uphold Austen and her works as the panacea for a complicated world. Austen's mid-1990s American revival once again allowed these writers to prescribe Austen and the filmic adaptations of her novels as the best medicine for a confused culture. Laurie Morrow, for instance, juxtaposes Austen to "moral relativism," claiming that the early nineteenth-century author "believes in moral absolutes" which "hold the promise that bad behavior can be limited and provide hope that the world can be a better place" (263). Morrow presents Austen as a conservative thinker who offers millennial society a potent disciplinary mechanism. According to Morrow, Austen has no tolerance for ambiguity or fluidity. And yet, Morrow's view of Austen may actually reveal our current fear of dynamic subjectivities and relations. We are still uncertain how to manage the perpetually new identities, sexualities, and relations that are developing and announcing their pleasures. We like to imagine that Austen will somehow remind us how men are supposed to be reserved and controlled, women elegant and decorated, and love clean and ordered. [4] As we enter a new millennium, Austen remains a popular figure in both academic and popular culture, but the myth of her disciplinary program may be dissipating.

[19] Jay Carr pronounces that Patricia Rozema's recently-released filmic adaptation of Mansfield Park "continues Jane Austen's winning streak on film." Austen is still a hot commodity in the box office, and Kristine Huntley predicts that "yet another wave of Jane Austen mania is about to hit." Don't bet on it. The "Austen" of Rozema's Mansfield Park shows little inclination to inform us how to behave as stable socially- proper subjects, and America is wondering what happened to "Dear Aunt Jane." Eleanor Ringel Gillespie reviews the film and angrily asserts that Rozema has "given it a dash of lesbianism, a pinch of feminism and a dollop of social conscience." Desson Howe is also upset about this recent "perversion" of Austen's genteel world. Howe argues that "Rozema pushes the subtle Austen off the cliff of discretion. And discretion is the very essence of Austen's writing." Howe and Gillespie yearn for an Austen film that is safe for Americans to watch--a discrete film that will direct us to appreciate once again proper social manners and appropriate sexual relations. They want an "Austen" who will tell us how men and women should accept their social statuses and discipline their sexual passions. Gillespie concludes that "Rozema's at-arm's-length contemporary agenda may work as an intellectual exercise, but it robs the movie of any sense of anything being at stake." Gillespie fails to realize that Rozema is very much aware of what is at stake, in both her film and in Austen's corpus.

[20] Rozema's film reveals the social and sexual complexity of Austen's work, and while much of American society will continue to be frightened by this diversity, the rest of us can enjoy this new manifestation of "Austen." Soren Andersen has reservations about the film, but indicates that it "is full of surprises--delightfully so." John Hartl agrees, and declares that it "is the liveliest Austen adaptation since Clueless." Claudia Johnson also lauds Rozema's production, calling it "a witty and frankly modern take on Austen." Johnson explains that "Rozema's movie is controversial because a powerful nostalgia motivates many assumptions about Austen, who is imagined to have celebrated a life that unfolded before the advent of the ills of modernity--such as doubt, war and, more recently, feminism and multiculturalism" ("Mansfield Park Worth Visiting"). The conservative critics who praised Austen in the mid-1990s for giving us a world free from modern ills are now scared about this new incarnation of the novelist. America wants an "Austen" who can provide us with guidelines for living a civilized and well-mannered life that will resurrect a safe and controlled society in the post-sexual revolution world; America now must realize that Austen never sought to safeguard such a disciplinary culture.

[21] Austen's works do not provide us with characters who serve as models for appropriate social subjects. Austen's novels detail how men and women respond to society's produced desires for such standards of propriety as they consequently curtail and manage their own produced desires. The England in which Austen wrote was desperately seeking to return to a mythical organic community of safety and stability, and the novelist's characters take steps to mold themselves as secure individuals who can help sustain the unity of the nation. Austen reveals how this endeavor is both destructive and futile: the majority of her characters must inevitably dismiss their own desires and their abilities to love in order to craft socially-endorsed subjectivities, and even these well-regulated subjects cannot ensure a unified world. Persuasion narrates the fall of this ostensibly ordered culture, a world built around hereditary status and clearly demarcated identities, but Austen sends her hero and heroine to the sea where they will enjoy a new life rooted in movement and malleability. Austen never attempts to draw us a map to a promised land of social stability. Her works, indeed, suggest that such a sphere may not exist. She does, however, point the way to the sea, and while the sea holds no promises, it allows individuals to embrace their own diversity as well as the complexity of others. It is at the sea where Anne, Wentworth, and other potential nomads can explore the possibilities of ever-new relations, desires, and becomings.


Works Cited

Andersen, Soren. "Multifaceted Mansfield Park Takes Exquisitely Complex Paths." The News Tribune. Dec. 25, 1999: SL5.

Auerbach, Nina. "'O Brave New World: Evolution and Revolution in Persuasion." ELH 39 (1972): 112-28.

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon. Ed. John Davie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

---. Persuasion. 1818. Ed. John Davie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Carr, Jay. "Mansfield: Jane Austen Shines Again." Boston Globe. Nov. 24, 1999: C5.

Cohen, Monica F. "Persuading the Navy Home: Austen and Married Women's Professional Property." Novel 29.3 (1996): 346-65.

Deleuze, Gilles. "Control and Becoming." Negotiations: 1972-1990. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press. 169-76.

---. "On Philosophy." Negotiations: 1972-1990. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press. 135-55.

Deleuze, Gilles and FÈlix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

---. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Foucault, Michel. The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1986.

---. "The Ethics of the Concern of the Self as a Practice of Freedom." Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: The New Press, 1994. 281-01.

---. "Sex, Power, and the Politics of Identity." Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: The New Press, 1994. 163-74.

---. "The Social Triumph of the Sexual Will." Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth: The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954-1984. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: The New Press, 1994. 157-62.

Gillespie, Eleanor Ringel. "Jane Austen 'updated'--too bad." The Atlanta Journal- Constitution. Dec. 24, 1999: 3.

Grosz, Elizabeth. "A Thousand Tiny Sexes: Feminism and Rhizomatics." Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas & Dorothea Olkowski. New York: Routledge. 187-210.

Hartl, John. "Lively Mansfield Park Expands Austen's Story." Seattle Times. Nov. 24, 1999: E3.

Howe, Desson. "Mansfield Park: Austen Dour." Nov. 26, 1999: N45."

Huntley, Kristine. "The Friendly Jane Austen: A Well-Mannered Introduction to a Lady of Sense and Sensibility." The Booklist. Nov. 15, 1999: 595.

Johnson, Claudia. Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.

---. "This Is a Mansfield Park Worth Visiting." The Los Angeles Times. Dec. 20, 1999: 3.

Kramp, Michael. "The Potency of Jane; or the Disciplinary Function of Austen in America." Studies in American Culture 22.2 (1999): 19-32.

Monaghan, David. Jane Austen: Structure and Social Vision. London: The Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1980.

Moretti, Franco. Atlas of the European Novel: 1800-1900. London: Verso, 1998.

Morrow, Laurie. "Mannerly Novels for an Ill-Mannered Age." The World & I 11 (1996): 261-74.

Prewitt Brown, Julia. Jane Austen's Novels: Social Change and Literary Form. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Rzepka, Charles J. "Making it in a Brave New World: Marriage, Profession, and Anti- Romantic Ekstasis in Austen's Persuasion." Studies in the Novel 26 (1994): 99- 115.

Sales, Roger. Jane Austen and the Representations of Regency England. London: Routledge, 1994.

Smith, LeRoy W. Jane Austen and the Drama of Woman. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Smith, Peter. "Jane Austen's Persuasion and the Secret Conspiracy." Cambridge Quarterly 24 (1995): 279-303.

Tanner, Tony. Jane Austen. London: Macmillan, 1986.

Williams, Michael. Jane Austen: Six Novels and Their Methods. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986.

Woolf, Virginia. "Jane Austen." The Common Reader. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1925. 137-49.



[1] Many critics have followed Auerbach's lead in discussing how the novel imagines both the death of an old world and the development of a new world. Tony Tanner argues that "in this novel . . . institutions and codes and related values have undergone a radical transformation or devaluation. There are values, but many of them are new; and they are relocated or resisted" (216). Charles J. Rzepka returns specifically to Auerbach's article and claims that "in Persuasion, the highest type of self-realization, for women as for men, seems to be comprised in the notion of active contribution, not in claims to individual rights and privileges, nor to freedom or self-assertion and self-expression, all of which can more aptly be said to characterize the values of Sir Walter and Elizabeth . . . than of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth" (99).

[2] Many critics have discussed this stubborn quality of Wentworth. Claudia Johnson claims that the hero's "steadfastness to the point of inflexibility actually aligns him with Sir Walter, and he must mitigate his self- will before reconciliation is possible" (Jane Austen 157). Michael Williams indicates that Wentworth "has a large and not unjustified self-confidence; he is always in search of sweeping and decisive action, always impatient of mere convention. He will where necessary defy authority, and he has an understanding that is as quick, emotionally, as it is in every other way" (163). Leroy W. Smith simply dubs Wentworth "the most headstrong of Austen's heroes" (158). Smith adds that "Wentworth is not a fool or a hypocrite, but he is trapped by circumstances, sexual bias and masculine egotism. Before he can discover his own full nature or what a woman is, he must, like the female, exorcise the internalised patriarchal presence" (160).

[3] Wentworth's naval background is very important to the maritime marriage that ends this novel. Tanner notes that "even though Anne and Wentworth are models of emotional stability and constancy, the emotions are by nature inherently potentially unstable" (246). Julia Prewitt Brown adds that Anne and Wentworth "inherit the England of Persuasion, if only because they see it, and will experience it, as it really is: fragmented and uncertain. For the first time in Jane Austen, the future is not linked to the land" (146).

[4] I have argued elsewhere that America has historically turned to Austen as a potent disciplinary force who has the power in both popular and academic culture to enforce conservative norms of heterosexuality. For a further discussion of this topic, see my article "The Potency of Jane; or the Disciplinary Function of Austen in America."