Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Jane Austen, observer of the minutiae in Regency English life, is fundamental reading in many a lady’s library. She would have been 235 years old today. I can never quite decide if my favourite of hers is Emma or Sense and Sensibility.

About Chally

Chally is a student by day, a freelance writer by night, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. She also blogs at Zero at the Bone. Full bio here.
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13 Responses to Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

  1. Yatima says:

    +1 Team Persuasion!

  2. Beppie says:

    I love Sense and Sensibility, simply for the way that Austen portrays her protagonists’ rich intellectual life. I love Pride and Prejudice because Darcy is hot and Elizabeth is awesome.

  3. Chally says:

    Oh, I recommend Elizabeth Gaskell to Austen lovers. North & South is wonderful.

  4. Kristen J. says:

    My dislike of Jane Austen’s novels knows no bounds. WHY? WHY? WHY is she so beloved? The books are boring and angry making. To please one of my best friends I read the entire collection one weekend…It was a form of torture.

  5. Monica says:

    Kristen J., try reading Austen’s novels as satire. She really did not write romance novels; it was the only form she as a woman could use to write her social criticism. In 1940 a psychologist, D. W. Harding, read her novels and wrote an essay “Regulated Hatred” where he states: “In order to enjoy her books without disturbance those who retain the conventional notion of her work [as romance] must always have had slightly to misread what she wrote.”

  6. Kristen J. says:

    Monica: Kristen J., try reading Austen’s novels as satire. She really did not write romance novels; it was the only form she as a woman could use to write her social criticism. In 1940 a psychologist, D. W. Harding, read her novels and wrote an essay “Regulated Hatred” where he states: “In order to enjoy her books without disturbance those who retain the conventional notion of her work [as romance] must always have had slightly to misread what she wrote.” Monica

    I’m well aware of the satire…and the social commentary. I just think she attempts to make these larger points about powerlessness and then sells out to compromise in the end. Also, dreadfully boring. Edith Wharton has a much more compelling style.

  7. Medea says:

    Eh. I find the writing itself beautiful, quite apart from any potential message. The sentences are full and yet so delicately and carefully expressed, very different from modern writing. Happy birthday, Jane, and I’m sorry you died so young.

  8. Kristine says:

    Emma will always be my favourite, though I can’t say why. Maybe because it was the first of her novels I’d ever read? For my thirteen year old self, it was a whole new world of literature.

  9. Nahida says:

    While I agree with Kristen J., I think it would be unrealistic for the time period to expect the books to not sell out to the compromise at the end. We have strange expectations of fiction. I love reading about things like magic–but the characters can’t just pull out wands and fix everything whenever necessary. I was peeved with the compromises as well, but I bet that’s probably what happened all the time, and the fact that I was enraged is why I believe she’s a good writer.

  10. Lynnsey says:

    I can’t believe no one’s posted The Jane Austen Fight Club…

  11. Jim says:

    Did anyone follow all that stir over Austen’s editor? It was a big deal on some lingusitics blogs.

    http://www.languagehat.com/archives/004055.php

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2782

    The second post and thread make the interesting point that standard spelling and grammar, with all the arbitary twists in them, were indeed instruments of power in English during that period, but they were instruments of insurgent power, of a rising imperial managerial class against an established aristocracy. Someone in one of these threads goes on to point out that since Austen was wrting about and presumabely identiifed more with the landed gentry, it is probable that she was not an obsessive about these new standards of either spelling or grammar. She probably would thought they were a litle vulgar and “climbing”.

  12. eli says:

    I’m just reading: A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson: A Review, and it’s got some great insights that I’d never considered regarding Austen’s work.

    I think my favourite is Persuasion, merely for the letter at the end: You pierce my soul.

  13. Donald says:

    I really find Jane Austin as a feminist heroine to be extraordinary. She lived among and wrote about a tiny group of English early 19th Century women. That priviledged group who expected never to have to work but would be supported by their fathers until they married well enough to live off their husbands. Even the hard and dirty work of maintaining the home was passed off to servants. Those are also mainly women but invisible in her books. Worse, she wrote in such a way as the make that a legitimate aspiration for millions when even at its height in the 1950s the majority of women needed the income work brought. While it would be unfair to blame her for the social structure which treated women as inferior beings her writing did a lot to reinforce it.

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