What’s the matter with… Jane Austen? – So go look every day

(Image credit: kozirsky)

(Image credit: kozirsky)

I have only recently been bitten by the Janeite bug. I know I’m late for this party, but pass me a cup of mulled wine and I’ll explain here by the crackling fire how I got here and why I think I’m going to stay a while.

I always liked to watch Pride and Prejudice. Lizzy’s independent mindset reminds me of mine, and although she does end up with the love of her life – who just happens to be incredibly rich – it’s her pursuit of what’s right on her own. standards while remaining true to the upward mobility needs of his family in a seemingly stagnant society that wins my heart.

It wasn’t until I took a class from Jane Austen that I realized how much I enjoyed looking deeper into this world so tightly wrapped around the social structures that Austen masterfully defended and challenged. Reading her works as a 27 year old woman has helped me not only to understand the world I live in, but also how we got here and why it is important to understand the rules by which I am supposed to live. in my own society.

For example…

In Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s naive and gullible personality, coupled with Ms. Allen’s relentless selfishness and materialistic outlook as well as Isabella’s blatant disregard for her friend, annoy me. Also, what’s going on with her mother’s farewell? The whole mother-daughter relationship in Austen’s novels is a real problem, but Catherine’s farewell discussion with her mother comes straight out of a textbook on etiquette.

It wasn’t until the second reading that I realized I was meant to feel this, and it was because of this feeling that I felt compelled to write about it – to join the conversation.

While living in a world that is continually shaped by the gravity of pop culture, I began to understand the navigation and intelligent societal dance in Austen’s works, more choreographed than any of the balls they did. contain.

Catherine’s character (clearly a response to Austen’s society’s understanding of women’s response to their environment and the need to prevent them from anything that might ruin them) is exemplary of female domination, proving that women Isabella’s strategies for social mobility do not measure up to Catherine’s strength of character within in her own growth. Isabella’s dramatic behavior comes up against Catherine’s honesty on several occasions: “No, my daughter. I don’t know what you’re talking about, ”and this shock of characterizing femininity in Austen’s novel shows that this whole woman / woman thing is totally wrong and just a performance.

While Henry Tilney is by no means the perfect mate, repeatedly mocking his intelligence, I see that his promotion of his use of critical thinking ignites Catherine’s pursuit of not only her love for Henry, but also an appreciation and acceptance of her individual thought process that she has possessed throughout her life.

And then there is …

Mansfield Park. What shit. This novel is another reason Austen infuriates me and turns me on at the same time. I can’t stand any character here. I literally hate them all. BUT, isn’t that the sign of a good novel? In analyzing this text, I must have wondered Why I hated these characters.

The bottom line is this: Mrs. Norris is terrible and Fanny Price is my worst nightmare. She is just as manipulative and strategic as Mary Crawford, but Fanny’s modus operandi is more dangerous because she subscribes to the code of conduct that the company endorses.

Mary became the villain by defying social norms – she is a sexualized villain. Yet isn’t she looking for the same thing as Fanny? Isn’t she looking for a husband, but rather than the low-key, and frighteningly add, that Fanny has mastered, Mary’s conduct opens up to conversation the rules by which she is governed. in his society.

So what?

Before you come home from this pub gathering, stumbling into my rambling speech, know that I’m making three points here, and my first point is this: Jane Austen’s works were groundbreaking because of the way it highlights positioning. of women in society — the rules they must follow in order to achieve personal development. Her heroines are rewarded with a marriage that creates a mask of conventionality, but the way they achieve their social salvation of eternal celibate life is a thinly veiled trope of empowering women to navigate the society they are in. live.

These characters aren’t just brilliant; they create their own happiness in unique and interesting ways. In addition, the relationship between women and their culture of the female bond in order to manifest their own empowerment – oh, the drama! There is nothing like some early 19e gossip of the century!

Their fight for independent thought and the autonomy to create their own lives is what makes Austen’s heroines stand out and stay in exciting and fun ways that Mr. Collins can’t hang onto.

Remakes and re-imaginations

So, you might ask, why is this important? Why should I care about the works of Jane Austen when she’s been away for a long time and I can read the works of someone who I can actually see and feel while chatting with my company? Well, because she is too. Believe it or not, Austen’s works are still alive and flourishing. Bridget Jones Diary released with another opus (I can’t wait!), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies just hit the big screen, and there’s a long history of remakes and re-imaginations.

Literary critic Deidre Lynch calls exploring Jane Austen’s ‘social machine’ in her work, and it is this duplication of her society and, therefore, her work in new societies that makes Austen’s brand still relevant. . It is reworked, redone, reinvented in new and exciting ways. Austenland that’s basically me when i went to england – however i didn’t come home with a gorgeous british boyfriend but it’s neither here nor there.

My second point is that Austen is and always will be remade for the time being because the issues she addresses and the characters she employs work to address the social constraints and performativity within them – which binds us together. to the rules of convention and how our identities are shaped. .

What is love? What is marriage? What is femininity? What is masculinity? Austen’s representations of these investigations are very different from today, but the issues are still under review. If only love looked more like Colin Firth leaving a lake like the winner of a Darcy wet t-shirt contest.

The Janéites unite

Even if we don’t send pregnant women to the countryside out of humiliation, we live in a society that still puts bitches to shame. Just recently Kim Kardashian was ashamed for posting a nude photo online (her response to haters was pretty awesome, BTW). I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation. We do not care?! #FreeTheNipple

We don’t send women to their rooms if they’re going through an emotional episode like Marianne’s complete breakup in Sense and sensitivity, but we despise excessive emotional sharing, often calling people crazy or hormonal for feeling feelings and crying over them.

We have shows like The single person, The bachelorette, and Millionaire matchmaker for “It is a universally recognized truth that a celibate man in possession of good fortune must need a wife” (Austen, Pride and Prejudice). This notion of class, marriage and mobility in society always haunts us when we watch television which, while incredibly addictive, perpetuates the ideas that Austen struggles with in his works.

Jane Austen might roll in her grave if I compare her works to today’s most famous celebrities and issues, but that was the society she lived in. Reinventing the works of Austen in my world, to make them relevant today, it is to tackle the issues that inhabit them: female autonomy, identity creation and personal development. These issues have not been resolved and are still discussed daily.

We have reached my third point and why I love his works: the problems in his works, the ability to explore and create a personal and unexpected self while accepting that there is a social structure within which we live, is still and always will be topical as long as identity and its construction are a social issue.

So, this is my Janeite manifesto. I love his stuff and think we should all read it and talk about it at our next pub gathering. Who is in?

I want to know why you like or dislike Jane Austen. Share with me in the comments below, but if you don’t like it I’m just warning you that you’re wrong (kidding, but not really).

Hey, before you leave the party, pass me another cup of mulled wine, will you?

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