On Twitter, someone asked for book recommendations for Austen fans, and what came to mind was not a continuation, a sequel, or an inspired-by. It was JULIET, NAKED by Nick Hornby.
Nick Hornby is my idea of a contemporary Jane Austen. So is Zadie Smith, particularly her novel ON BEAUTY. Both authors make profound observations of human nature, give us romance without sentimentality, have a divine sense of humor, and are simply master storytellers. In my writing workshops I inevitably read passages from both Hornby and Smith.
For me, Hornby’s JULIET, NAKED brought to mind some of the online discussions that occur amongst Austen’s most devoted readers. A central premise of the book is that no matter how much the admirers of an artist’s work examine that work, study it, parse it for meaning, and become “experts,” they can never acquire irrefutable proof that the creator felt a certain way or had a particular type of experience at the time she created it. Bottom line is that it’s nothing more than speculation. And speculation is often wrong. (more…)
If Mary Brunton’s name rings any bells, you are most likely thinking of this quote from Jane Austen:
I am looking over Self Control again, & my opinion is confirmed of its’ being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura’s passage down the American River, is not the most natural, possible, every-day thing she ever does.
The alleged lack of ‘Nature or Probability’ has since cast a long shadow on Brunton’s work:
in fact, it seems to have become the accepted critical opinion, so much so that Brunton tends to be accused of faults she did not even have. Before I read Self-Control (1811) and Discipline(1814), I therefore assumed the novels were over-the-top in a wildly sentimental, Gothic fashion. (Several academic texts and reference works I’ve since looked at operate under the same illusion, which is making me wonder whether most academics actually read the books they write about.) I really should have paid more attention to the titles – whoever would give a sentimental potboiler such a forbidding title as Self-Control? (more…)
It’s not too late to join the party. The yearly Austen in August event, hosted by The Book Rat, is in full swing, and you are invited. If you’re a Janeite, this is the place to be.
There are giveaways,read-alongs, Austenesque book discoveries, and more–including roundtable discussions on the best cringeworthy moments in Austen and imagining what the best Austen TV mashups might be. In other words, it’s not only a chance to celebrate the works of the timeless author, it’s also a chance to fall over laughing. Which we take every opportunity to do.
As well as the bicentenary of Jane’s death, 2017 marks another anniversary on the Austen calendar, albeit of a more modest nature. Because it was ten years ago that the Jane Austen Gift Shop first began sending products to Jane’s fans the world over.
In those days it was a much more humble affair. (more…)
On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, what better way is there to honor this extraordinary author than to give thanks for what she has left us? For me, her work is a timeless guide to living life in the no-BS zone, wrapped in an infinitely re-readable set of six novels.
If I could assign a motto, a credo to the the Austen canon, I would say it could be summed up in this one line from Pride and Prejudice: “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” The fact that Mr. Darcy delivers this line while in the midst of a serious marriage-proposal fail makes it even more resonant: Darcy may be honest, but the brutality of his honesty indicates that he’s hiding behind his angry pride. He’s yet to unmask that part of his own disguise, but being an Austen hero, we know that he will.
That’s the genius of Austen, who calls out her characters on their disguises and their dishonesty. Which leads them to their moment of revelation, their grand character arc, and their ultimate reward–love and happiness.
Along the way, Austen makes us laugh, which makes the hard truths easier to bear. And thus we can begin to see ourselves in it all.
That’s Austen: keeping us real and calling us out. She’s been doing it for 200 years. And that’s no small feat for someone who lived in a society in which polite demurrals, refusals, and denials were a socially mandated matter of form.
Here are 10 gems of Austen wisdom to help you reach your own character arc.
1. A real friend is the one with the guts to tell you the ugly truth.
In Emma, Mr. Knightley was the only person with the courage to tell Emma that her treatment of Mrs. Bates was cruel. Emma was shocked and chastened. And set about making amends. Which also put her on the road to realizing that Knightley’s bossiness was maybe just a little bit attractive; no scratch that, super hot. (more…)
There’s a big Janeite party brewing in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s super affordable and sounds like a blast! So don your Regency regalia (or your yoga pants; Austen fans come in all shapes, sizes, and outfits) and make haste to the Jane Austen Festival.
Jane Austen’s father, George Austen has many connections to the city of Bath.
On the 26th April 1764 he married, by special licence, Cassandra Leigh in St Swithin’s, Walcot. The Austen family were regular visitors to Bath and in December 1800, after 35 years ministering in Steventon, George Austen announced his retirement and moved to Bath, where he spent his final years. He died in the city on the 21st January 1805 and is buried at St Swithin’s Church where a memorial to him has been erected.
Jane Austen lived at home with her parents all her life and the Rev George Austen played a significant part in her life. Apart from a brief period at boarding school, Jane was largely educated at home; George also provided writing equipment for her to develop her literary talent. The Rev Austen features in Jane’s correspondence and as a result much is known about his adult life. Very little, however, has been written about George Austen’s early life, before he met and married Cassandra Leigh. It is known that he was orphaned at the age of six before going to school in his home town of Tonbridge, Kent, from where he won a scholarship to study at St John’s College, Oxford. However, very little has been written about these formative early years of his life – until now.
I recently replied to an email enquiry from a student who was looking for an opinion on the question “To what extent does Jane Austen present her heroines as ideal women within their social contexts?” My reply ended up being fairly lengthy and is below. Let me know what you think!
Personally, I’d say that very few, if any, of her heroines are presented as ideal women within their social contexts. They all have their own unique flaws.
Elizabeth Bennet is outspoken and opinionated; just think of her responses to Lady Catherine’s enquires about her age, and her dismissal of Mr Collins, and then later of Mr Darcy. Were Lizzy an ideal woman in society she would have accepted Collins in order to secure her family’s home as per her mother’s wishes, or Darcy when he asked her in order to secure an even better future for herself and her family. (more…)
After all, this summer will mark the 200th anniversary of the great author’s death, and thus the perfect time to celebrate her life. Here’s an idea that sounds to us like Jane Austen heaven: 200 Years of Persuasion: The Jane Austen Summer Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from June 15-18, 2017. You don’t have to be a scholar or even a student in order to attend; all are welcome. According to the program’s site, it is open to “anyone with a passion for all things Austen.”
Every year, The Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC Chapel Hill focuses on one of the author’s works. This year, it explores Austen’s last finished novel, Persuasion (which happens to be my personal favorite, though I can discuss the various merits of each of the author’s precious novels with fellow enthusiasts for hours, months, and years and never get bored).
Here is one of my favorite testimonials from past participants of The Jane Austen Summer Program: “All the professors I met were so friendly and welcoming, so I never felt intimidated talking with such impressive scholars. It was a totally comfortable environment for all!” Read some more of the glowing testimonials yourself, and you’ll be filling out that registration form before you can say “You pierce my soul.”
Just watched the first episode of The Cate Morland Chronicles, and looking forward to more. It’s a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey with a Catherine Morland as the ultimate fangirl. Sweet.