A Jane Austen Education

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A Jane Austen Education

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Mar 14, 2015, 2:33pm

I know there are one or two Austen groups on LT, but I'd rather chat with you all.

I just finished reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz and found it well worthwhile.

We talk here in this group about what we like about the characters from older novels and why we like to spend time with them. Deresiewicz did an exceptionally good job of analyzing not only characters, but life lessons.

So I thought I'd share my notes here.

Pg 67

R - Society and conventions are confining, artificial and destructive.
R - Reason is a convention, not a source for truth.
R - The real source of Truth is Nature.
R – If it feels good, it is good.

“It has set the terms for the way we think and feel…and in particular, for the way we think and feel about thinking and feeling.”

Popular music – the most important word isn’t “Love,” it’s “I” and the second most important word is “wanna.” Popular music is one giant shout of desire; one great rallying cry for freedom and pleasure. Pop psychology sends the same signals and so does advertising.

Pg 68

Feelings do matter, which is an important lesson at a certain point in life.

WD – Accepting that my emotions were valid – important and morally significant – that they should have a bearing on how I act – was a crucial part of growing up.

Some Austen characters had to learn this to stand up for themselves. But too great a belief in feelings is adolescent.

WD - "The next step into the full autonomy of adulthood is to learn to doubt oneself."

Pg 69

Honesty forces Elizabeth and Emma to listen and think; to do something difficult, that violates instinct and intuition. Reason must rule emotion. Logic, evidence and objectivity stand outside us and don’t care what we want.

There are a couple more sections I'll be noting, but this is a good place to start.


Edited: Mar 23, 2015, 10:27am

I don't have the book, but here goes--

Unlike Sir Thomas, Austen would still consider Fanny's refusal of Henry Crawford reasonable even if it were based only on her not liking him. Anne also decides against Mr Elliot before his villainy is exposed. She does not trust him.

Reason must rule emotion, but not tyrannically?

- hearthlit