'Without you, I am nothing': On the Counterfactual Imagination in Emma (reprint)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Positioning Austen's Emma in relation to a number of other nineteenth-century novels, this essay proposes that the novel's strategic restraint of its readers’ counterfactual imagining, enacted through repeat reading, affords a minor countermeasure to the contingencies of readership. By staging the counterfactual imagination as the impossible, that is, Austen's narrative strategies in Emma attempt to rein in the reader's imagination of the counterfactual, acknowledging at the same time the uncertainties of the narrative's future once committed to print and as a book in the hands of unpredictable readers. While critics have observed the geographical and social claustrophobia of the novel, and traced that sense of closing in as well in the extensive use of free indirect discourse, this essay extends our understanding of the novel's tight setting of limits to its handling of narrative contingency and of the counterfactual imagination, enacted especially in the experience of repeat reading.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterature and Contingency
ISBN (Print)9780367192037
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019