Jane Austen's novels are part of an archive that has historically been situated in the tension over the “right” way to read a text. Indeed, her popularity among both recreational and professional readers positions her as a uniquely useful figure to track the divisions between low and high culture, good and bad reading, precisely because her reception is famously linked to both sets of practices. This article reads Austen's complicated reception in terms of the affective relationship her readers impose on the texts in order to highlight the many boundaries and terrains her readers occupy: critical vs. popular ways of reading, affected vs. affecting readerships, historical vs. fictional models for understanding her value. As Austen fans make these boundaries visible by crossing them, straddling them, or dismantling them, they reveal how tenuous and problematic the parameters constraining literary value really are.

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