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The Making of Jane Austen

An engaging account of how Jane Austen became a household name.

Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser's The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen's early fame, laying the groundwork for the beloved author we think we know.

Here are the Austen influencers, including her first English illustrator, the eccentric Ferdinand Pickering, whose sensational gothic images may be better understood through his brushes with bullying, bigamy, and an attempted matricide. The daring director-actress Rosina Filippi shaped Austen's reputation with her pioneering dramatizations, leading thousands of young women to ventriloquize Elizabeth Bennet's audacious lines before drawing room audiences. Even the supposedly staid history of Austen scholarship has its bizarre stories. The author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, student George Pellew, tragically died young, but he was believed by many, including his professor-mentor, to have come back from the dead.

Looser shows how these figures and their Austen-inspired work transformed Austen's reputation, just as she profoundly shaped theirs. Through them, Looser describes the factors and influences that radically altered Austen's evolving image. Drawing from unexplored material, Looser examines how echoes of that work reverberate in our explanations of Austen's literary and cultural power. Whether you're a devoted Janeite or simply Jane-curious, The Making of Jane Austen will have you thinking about how a literary icon is made, transformed, and handed down from generation to generation.

About the Author

Devoney Looser is a Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University, a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar, and a Guggenheim Fellow. She is the author of Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850 and British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670–1820.


"Energetic and revealing."

- Jane Smiley - New York Times Book Review

"One of the most fascinating sections... consequently takes in the wildly different approaches of [Austen’s] early illustrators."

- Wall Street Journal

"Looser is a sober and conscientiously corrective guide, constantly prompting us to historicise the conventional ways in which we conceive of Austen... This is a studious and sensible book, driven by a commitment to shedding light on Austen's work and context."

- Times Higher Education

"Timely and authoritative."

- Times Literary Supplement

"Austen fans have another book to add to their libraries."

- Publishers Weekly

"[Looser's] arguments are refreshing and balanced. The Making of Jane Austen lovingly unveils Austen's posthumous journey to become a permanent fixture in classic English literature."

- Foreword Reviews

"An informative and delightful read for literary lovers who want to learn more about one of the most celebrated authors of all time, The Making of Jane Austen puts the famed novelist in a whole new light."

- Bustle

"Looser's book is full of forgotten performances, artists, and remakes, showing that Austen has long been enlisted to play a variety of roles."

- First Things

"The Making of Jane Austen presents a compelling history of how the phenomenon of 'Jane! Austen!' came to be..."

- Women's Writing

"Written with wit and in pleasing yet learned prose, the book bridges well the gap between academic and popular writing... Altogether, new information for scholars and fans and great fun. Highly recommended."

- Choice

"The Making of Jane Austen is both an essential, rigorously researched text for serious Austen scholars and an irresistibly lively reading experience for even the most newly initiated of Janeites."

- Romantic Circles

"[W]hat The Making of Jane Austen offers the reader is a brilliant narrative that ends in hope. The story of how Jane Austen became, in Looser's words, 'Jane! Austen!', is a meandering tale with unlikely participants, unexpected twists, and a great deal of humour."

- Jane Austen Society of Australia

"A groundbreaking effort to broaden the conversation about Austen's influence in terms of both content and audience, The Making of Jane Austen represents a major contribution to the fast-growing area of Austen reception studies and will be remembered as a book of the decade in Austen scholarship more generally."

- JASNA News

"[A] fascinating new study of some of the ways Austen has been used by illustrators, actors, and activists."

- Hudson Review

"In this brilliant new view of Austen, Devoney Looser tells us as much about what we want and need from our literary celebrities as [she] does about 'Aunt Jane' herself."

- Review 19

"The book offers insightful close reading of several nineteenth-century illustrations of Austen’s fiction."

- Review of English Studies

"Clearly organized into sections that dive deeply into the illustrated, the dramatized, and the politicized Austen as well as Austen pedagogy, from the first dissertation to the McGuffey Reader, The Making of Jane Austen provides a review of how Austen's image was shaped and shifted over time by those who marketed her work in books, films, and texts. Looser also looks at how both anti-suffrage men and suffragettes used Austen to prop up their viewpoint as people continue to look to Austen for conservative and liberal ideas. It seems Austen is almost biblical in her ability to be all things to all people."

- Tonstant Weader Reviews

"Devoney Looser's delightfully discontinuous history signals straightaway the materiality of its Subject and its place between scholarly and popular mythologies. More subtly, it coaxes the reader to confront her own self in the act of 'making' Austen... Her inclusive, imaginative account is an important marker in the critical turn toward 'matters of fact,' building upon work by Janine Barchas, Claudia Johnson, and Kathryn Sutherland that historicizes Austen's referential texts, their reception, and her gradual institutionalization."

- ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts

"Devoney Looser's latest full-scale contribution to Austen studies is an original, important and well-written book. It is valuable for the highly unusual areas she studies, for information about and clear descriptions of texts probably unknown to many Austen scholars and/or Janeites alike (this is a feat), for the critical intelligence and close reading she applies to some of these; and, for her tales of poignant lives of a few people who ought to be remembered for the significant contribution they made to the ways many people read Austen's texts today."

- Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer

"Looser's book gives us a much-needed historical perspective, showing that the most cutting-edge and the most retrograde interpretations of Austen have a deeper history than we have imagined."

- Vivasvan Soni, Northwestern University - Modern Philology

"Looser's book reminds us both how much invention has always been involved in creating Austen's literary reputation, and how frequently that invention has involved suppressing or distorting the voices of women and others who are not part of the dominant discourse. It is therefore also an important contribution to feminist scholarship more broadly, and to the growing body of scholarship that attempts to hear and recuperate the voices of the marginalized and oppressed."

- Katie Halsey, University of Stirling, author of Jane Austen and Her Readers, 1786–1945 - Eighteenth-Century Fiction

"Eminently readable and suitably polemical in places, The Making of Jane Austen will be of supreme interest not only to Austen scholars but to anyone seeking a fit model for unpicking the formation of a literary or historical reputation... With an enviable gift for marshalling unwieldy anecdotes, Looser has with outstanding energy and rigor traversed such places like no one else before her."

- Daniel Cook, University of Dundee - Literature and History


"The Making of Jane Austen is beautifully written and replete with new information. Devoney Looser provides an incisive and thoroughly original account of how an obscure country clergyman’s daughter came to occupy a dominant position among the English novelists. In the bicentenary year of Austen’s death, this work will fascinate students, scholars and general readers alike."

- Peter Sabor, McGill University, coeditor of Jane Austen’s Manuscript Works

"A potential game changer, full of force and originality. Looser's refreshingly democratic approach to Austen scholarship not only will add to our knowledge of this author's reception history and literary afterlife but will surprise even the most informed Austen scholar."

- Janine Barchas, University of Texas at Austin, author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

"This highly entertaining book makes clear that contemporary Janeites—with their cosplay, their clashing interpretations of much-loved novels, their wet-shirt Darcy, and their fiercely possessive relationship to their favorite author —are heirs to a tradition of Austen-love that stretches back to the early nineteenth century. Devoney Looser's brilliant detective work introduces us to a cast of creative, courageous, and eccentric women and men who helped keep Austen's work alive and vital into our own time."

- Deborah Yaffe, author of Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom

"The Making of Jane Austen is a fascinating and often very funny account of how Austen became one of English literature's best-loved novelists. Devoney Looser has already made a reputation as one of her generation's foremost Austen scholars; here she takes her game to the next level."

- Jenny Davidson, Columbia University

"Exuberant and unfailingly entertaining, The Making of Jane Austen challenges many pieties about the woman novelist and her fame. Looking beyond the elite caretakers of Austen’s reputation, Looser helps us better appreciate the multiple, surprising ways in which nineteenth- and twentieth-century audiences enjoyed, used, and adapted Austen’s books."

- Deidre Lynch, Harvard University, author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History

"A splendid and indispensable work for all readers interested in how Austen is not simply any old great author but a cultural icon who continues to evolve in fascinating and often conflicting ways."

- Claudia Johnson, Princeton University, author of Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421422824 : the-making-of-jane-austen-looser
308 Pages
$29.95 USD
9781421422831 : the-making-of-jane-austen-looser
Electronic book text
308 Pages
$19.95 USD
9781421428994 : the-making-of-jane-austen-looser
Paperback / softback
308 Pages
$19.95 USD

Other Titles by Devoney Looser

Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850

Devoney Looser
Sep 2008 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$60.00 USD - Hardback
$60.00 USD - Electronic book text

British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820

Devoney Looser
Feb 2005 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$31.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$31.00 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

Samuel Richardson and the Dramatic Novel

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Dec 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
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$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

Winter Fruit

Dale B.J. Randall
Dec 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
$40.00 USD - Hardback
$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

The Religious Sublime

David B. Morris
Oct 2025 - University Press of Kentucky
$25.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$12.95 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in Literature: history & criticism

Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 51

edited by David A. Brewer and Crystal B. Lake
May 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback

Craft Class

Christopher Kempf
Mar 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$99.95 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Paperback / softback
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The Guide to James Joyce's Ulysses

Patrick Hastings
Feb 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$21.95 USD - Paperback / softback
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