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What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (original 2012; edition 2013)

by John Mullan

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2611343,716 (4.03)44
Member:cbl_tn
Title:What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved
Authors:John Mullan
Info:Bloomsbury Press (2013), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:literary criticism, Jane Austen, essays, ebook, NIL, NetGalley

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What matters in Jane Austen? : twenty crucial puzzles solved by John Mullan (2012)

  1. 10
    Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly (nessreader)
    nessreader: both fresh looks at the ploughed over field of austen studies, aimed at the intelligent fan rather than the academic.
  2. 10
    Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin (Elizabeth088)
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
'What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?' asks the narrator of Pride and Prejudice, in effect echoing Elizabeth's thought. There is nothing like the verdict of a servant, for the servants see everything, and we as readers should see them watching and listening.

To start with I wasn't sure about this book, as the first 2 or 3 chapters seemed quite repetitive, as they kept referencing the same scenes from the books, but it soon got more interesting. The chapter that explained why everyone in Jane Austen seems to know exactly how much money everybody else has was especially fascinating, and other favourites were chapters about servants, right and wrong ways to propose marriage, and the significance of blushing in the books.

Having re-read Northanger Abbey and Emma last year, I remember the details John Mullan describes quite well, and I am now planning to revisit some of the other books this year, while "What Matters in Jane Austen?" is fresh in my mind. ( )
  isabelx | Feb 9, 2016 |
I came across this book at Hay Festival, where the author John Mullan gave a "lecture" about Mansfield Park. (I put lecture in quotation marks because it was more of an inspired gushing about the novels.) I enjoyed the"lecture" greatly because here was a person who loves Austen as much as I do (or more) and because of the same reasons.

As one of the blurbs questions, why should you read this book instead of rereading one of Austen's novels? I believe that reading this book will make reading Austen more enjoyable. However, I would recommend this book only if you are rereading Austen, since there are so many spoilers in it, and, that a large part of the enjoyment of this book is the revisiting of known texts from different angles.

The book is not patronising text analysis with millions of obscure terms which I've forgotten the meaning of since Uni. Rather, it is almost a dialogue between the author and reader, interwoven with examples and extracts from Austen's novels and letters and also the novels of her contemporaries, and other attentive students of Austen. The book also gives insight to how certain things in the novels would have been experienced by Austen's contemporaries.

It feels like the book is too short because it is such an enjoyable read. But also towards the end I was torn with the desire to start rereading one or other of Austen's novels. It is also clear that the book is too short, because I keep wondering where all this extra information about Austen has appeared in my head and then I realise that it was at the "lecture" at Hay Festival.

John Mullan is certainly my kind of Austen fan since he loves Mansfield Park. This has been one of the indicators thus far. I love the way in which Austen tells the story, her innovative textual devices, her bitingly accurate words. This book of John Mullan's will give a better understanding of Austen's work and also her accomplishments in innovating novel writing. ( )
1 vote mayusteapot | Jan 4, 2016 |
I came across this book at Hay Festival, where the author John Mullan gave a "lecture" about Mansfield Park. (I put lecture in quotation marks because it was more of an inspired gushing about the novels.) I enjoyed the"lecture" greatly because here was a person who loves Austen as much as I do (or more) and because of the same reasons.

As one of the blurbs questions, why should you read this book instead of rereading one of Austen's novels? I believe that reading this book will make reading Austen more enjoyable. However, I would recommend this book only if you are rereading Austen, since there are so many spoilers in it, and, that a large part of the enjoyment of this book is the revisiting of known texts from different angles.

The book is not patronising text analysis with millions of obscure terms which I've forgotten the meaning of since Uni. Rather, it is almost a dialogue between the author and reader, interwoven with examples and extracts from Austen's novels and letters and also the novels of her contemporaries, and other attentive students of Austen. The book also gives insight to how certain things in the novels would have been experienced by Austen's contemporaries.

It feels like the book is too short because it is such an enjoyable read. But also towards the end I was torn with the desire to start rereading one or other of Austen's novels. It is also clear that the book is too short, because I keep wondering where all this extra information about Austen has appeared in my head and then I realise that it was at the "lecture" at Hay Festival.

John Mullan is certainly my kind of Austen fan since he loves Mansfield Park. This has been one of the indicators thus far. I love the way in which Austen tells the story, her innovative textual devices, her bitingly accurate words. This book of John Mullan's will give a better understanding of Austen's work and also her accomplishments in innovating novel writing. ( )
  mayusteapot | Jan 4, 2016 |
I'm not a big fan of Jane -- through I've come round somewhat on the subject since I couldn't resist the urge to fling Pride and Prejudice out of a window -- so you might think I was the wrong audience for this book anyway. But I am a big fan of close reading, and I find value in digging into what's important in an author's works in a way that I think the author of this would agree with, and I enjoy history, literary history, and all kinds of random facts. So I was hoping that though I'm no obsessive Austen fan, I'd still find this book of interest.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be quite sure where it's aimed at. As a non-fan, I don't know the books well enough for all the little details he references without fully contextualising to be exactly revelatory to me; as an MA in literature, I thought it was still a pretty simplistic level of analysis -- is anyone really surprised that yes, Austen was saying that Lydia Bennet had sex outside of marriage? -- and as a general reader, I didn't find the stuff that interesting on its own merits either. It startles me more that apparently there was a fuss kicked up about ~Was Jane Austen Gay?~ because of her intimacy with her sister than that sisterly conversation or the lack thereof is centrally important in her work.

Overall, whatever the target audience was meant to be, I'm not it. ( )
  shanaqui | Nov 23, 2014 |
Answers some of the questions readers of Austen (or of any contemporaries) might have about English society during the time of the novels. Particularly helpful, for instance, was the discussion of incomes and how much is enough. We know Austen is always throwing out annual income numbers - now we can get a better sense of which income ranges are truly phenomenal and which were so-so. The book discusses a number of other issues and topics. Austen fans should probably read this if they are not otherwise scholars of this era.
  karrinina | Nov 13, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
The approach, with its attention to detail, determination to solve puzzles, and respect for the text, is reminiscent of John Sutherland's approach in Is Heathcliff a Murderer?
 
One effect of reading Mullen's compendium is to make you appreciate the sheer density, the tight-woven intricacy, of every scene and every exchange in Austen. His approach illuminates, because no detail is redundant: Mrs Norris scolding the carpenter's son, or Mr Perry's children eating wedding cake, or Captain Benwick's taste in literature. Every remark, every accident, every material exchange, is a revelation. Rather, each detail reveals just itself, its own place in the whole unfolding story of how things are, at a specific place and moment in time, in a specific nexus of human relations – in Highbury, or at the Camden Place evening party, or between Mary Musgrove and her in-laws. "How things are" is obvious, once you can see it; it's easy to read, once it's written. What's less easy is to imagine holding all that material at once in imagination, and finding the right run of words to put it on to the page; making sentences unroll convincingly into an illusion of seeing and hearing, movement and intelligence. If it works, then reading is like a sensation of being there. Janeites obsess over belonging inside her worlds, because she makes us all feel present in them; she includes us in the club of those who see.
 
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In memory of Tony Tanner
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Did Jane Austen know how good she was? (Introduction)
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Book description
Chapter titles:
1. How much does age matter?
2. Do sisters sleep together?
3. What do the characters call each other?
4. How do Jane Austen's characters look?
5. Who dies in the course of her novels?
6. Why is it risky to go to the seaside?
7. Why is the weather important?
8. Do we ever see the lower classes?
9. Which important characters never speak in the novels?
10. What games do characters play?
11. Is there any sex in Jane Austen?
12. What do characters say when the heroine is not there?
13 How much money is enough?
14. Why do her plots rely on blunders?
15. What do characters read?
16. Are ill peoplereally to blame for their illnesses?
17. What Makes characters blush?
18. What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage?
19. When does Jane Austen speak directly to the reader?
20. How experimental a novelist is Jane Austen?

In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.

Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

[adapted from Amazon.com]
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A literary scholar poses twenty questions that reveal deep truths about the iconic writer and her lasting influence, demonstrating how Austen's genius can be better appreciated with an understanding of her books' character dynamics, unspoken sexuality, and period conventions.… (more)

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