Monday, 25 June 2012

What Matters in Jane Austen?


I've been getting a bit restless lately.  Keep looking at the MA in Eighteenth Century Studies on the Southampton University website even though it's too expensive, too far away, I work full-time and my daughters are about to enter sixth form.  I would like to study again though and the Unknown Jane Austen module sounds very tempting.  Daren't even mention it to my husband!

I very much enjoyed John Mullan's What Matters in Jane Austen - Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved.  The 'crucial puzzles' are answered in chapters on the significance of blushing, which characters speak and which remain silent, who dies in the course of the novels and the significance of the weather to name but a few.

Mullan is excellent on Austen's technical genius, her pioneering of the 'free indirect style' of modern novels where the authorial voice takes on the characteristics of a character.  He also provides lots of interesting facts that Austen fans will relish.  For example, we learn that the importance of the weather in Emma prompted an earth scientist to make a meteorological study of it.  In a chapter on blundering we learn that Mary Crawford, the self-styled psychologist of Mansfield Park, blunders again and again and ultimately loses the man she loves. 

In a perceptive chapter on death he notes that very few characters die in the course of the novels but they are all overshadowed by it.  I was particularly interested in the fact that Austen revealed to her family that the highly strung Jane Fairfax from Emma would enjoy 'nine or ten years marital felicity' with Frank Churchill before she died.  Fascinating to consider that Austen's plans for her characters extended beyond the end of the novels.

10 comments:

bookssnob said...

I am really looking forward to this, Nicola.

I hope you can do that MA one day. I am perpetually longing to do mine but whenever I get on the cusp of doing it - have had three acceptances now - something else turns up and makes it impossible. My time will come eventually, I'm sure!

Bonnie said...

I too often think of returning to school. I think I would be happy to be a career student. You at least have a focus, I have many interests I would like to follow. And, I am not yet willing to stop teaching.

"What Matters in Jane Austen" sounds intriguing. Another title for my list.

Thank you for visiting over at Living Life. Do you paint? Have a wonderful week. Bonnie

LizF said...

Maybe you can save up and do the MA when your daughters are through Sixth Form and possibly starting on university themselves?

I am at the other side of sixth form now as junior daughter has just taken her A-Levels (much stressing!)and is now trying not to think about August 16 until a bit nearer the time!

Anbolyn said...

I have absolutely no interest in any more formal schooling so I love to find out about books like this that I can study on my own.
I really wish I had more of an appreciation for Jane Austen. I recently purchased the annotated Emma and hope to get to that this year. I'm hoping it will help me to like it more than I have in the past.

Shelley said...

Just because she was so even-tempered, I think sometimes we forget to give Austen credit for whatever she had to do (or not do) to keep her sanity as a female genius in brutally sexist times.

Thanks for the book suggestion!

Sunday Taylor said...

This book sounds so interesting. And I am such a fan of Jane Austen! The author mentions that very few people die in her novels, that is so true, and I had never thought of it. Will look for this book!

A Bookish Space said...

I know the feeling, every so often I find myself looking for courses on the internet. For me, I think it would be a history course. But like you, the costs and location, and not to mention lack of time, always seen to be a problem.

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

Ooooh! That course sounds interesting and am sure you'd love it (I'd love it!). I think once the kids grow up, it's time to spread your wings a bit. Just drop it into conversation, and then keep dropping it .... Good Luck. xCathy

Vintage Reading said...

Booksnob, yup, they say everything comes to those who wait! I think you would enjoy this book.

Bonnie, no I don't paint or craft. I just read! I'm something of a perpetual student like you.

Lizf, yes you're practical answer has made me think that I could do they MA if I really went for it. Hope you're daughter does well in her A levels!

Anbolyn, one of my missions is to make you love Jane Austen!!

Shelly, yup, she relied on the financial support of her family. If only she had lived longer her books would have made her independent. So sad.

Sunday, I know you love Austen, I think you would really enjoy this book.

Bookish Space, I'm over it now, but every so often I get a yearning to do an MA. Maybe one day ... hope you get the chance, too.

Cathy, yep, I feel it is their time now, but possibly one day I'll go for it!

Amy said...

Ordering this book now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!