English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Brenda Ayres

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Literature, General


Aristotle, Austen, Balance, Dance, Symmetry


This thesis looks at the presence of symmetry and balance in Jane Austen's novels, especially as it is realized through period dance. In the Georgian period, the ideas of symmetry were an important aspect of both the political and aesthetic culture. Likewise, dance, often used as metaphor for courtship, reflected this societal emphasis on order and balance. As such, symmetry and its related principles, namely balance, repetition and order, are all principle themes expressed through patterns of dance in Austen's novels.

The first chapter briefly addresses Jane Austen's social position within the Regency era and her view of daily life and period dance. Austen's contributions to the literary field through plot formations similar to Aristotle's relates to the definitions of minute differences between symmetry and balance and how they relate to such terms as order and repetition. Some specific occurrences within Jane Austen's literary canon, and demonstrating how an action like dancing can embody the very essence of symmetry are also observed. Because of this connection between Austen's sense of balance and her development of a plot structure analogous to Aristotle's model, the next two chapters of this thesis looks at the balance of theme and the symmetrical patterns of dance as well as the presence of mirror characters and circumstances in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. In keeping with Aristotle's comments on rhythm, the last chapter explores the purpose of repetition and shows how essential it is in Persuasion. This thesis also includes some insights as to how occurrences such as travelling and music relate to the idea of symmetry.