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Jane Austen, Game Theorist$
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Michael Suk-Young Chwe

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691162447

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691162447.001.0001

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Austen on Cluelessness

Austen on Cluelessness

(p.188) Chapter Twelve Austen on Cluelessness
Jane Austen, Game Theorist

Michael Suk-Young Chwe

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how Jane Austen deals with cluelessness in her novels. It discusses the five explanations offered by Austen for cluelessness. The first is lack of natural ability and the second is social distance. In the latter case, an unmarried person for example is not so good at understanding married people because he has not yet had the experience of being married. The third is excessive self-reference, using yourself too much as a template for understanding others. The fourth is status maintenance: a higher-status person is not supposed to think about the intentions of a lower-status person, and risks blurring the status distinction if she does. The fifth is that sometimes presumption, believing that one can directly manipulate another's preferences, actually works. The chapter applies these explanations to the decisive blunders of superiors such as Lady Catherine and General Tilney in Northanger Abbey.

Keywords:   cluelessness, Jane Austen, novels, social distance, self-reference, status maintenance, presumption, superiors, Northanger Abbey

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