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What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial…

What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (original 2012; edition 2014)

by John Mullan (Author)

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4012250,230 (4.07)48
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.
Title:What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved
Authors:John Mullan (Author)
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing (2014), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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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 20 (next | show all)
Ignore the subtitle, which is clearly the invention of publishers who knew that "Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" has a sexier ring to it than "Twenty short, pleasantly essays about various aspects of Jane Austen's writings which help you better understand their social contexts and literary innovation but aren't truly essential to understanding the narrative."

Here, John Mullan writes accessibly, if sometimes a little repetitively, about a variety of topics, from the social signifiers of income in Regency England, to why the weather looms so large in Austen's writings, to the significance of the blush, and how knowledge of these things provides the reader with new layers of appreciation for Austen as a meticulous author. (I noted with amusement, however, that he didn't quote Tony Tanner's infamous (to my mind) Freudian analysis of Elizabeth Bennet's blushing as signifying a "mild erection of the head.")

The sweet spot for this in terms of audience is probably people who have read at least the majority of Austen's completed novels, but who aren't fans enough of Austen, or of Regency literature/history more generally, to have already imbibed what Mullan says here via osmosis. ( )
  siriaeve | Jan 5, 2022 |
I bought this directly from John Mullan himself at the Jane Austen Festival at his "Considering Nothanger Abbey" lecture. The lecture was awesome and the book followed the suit. It's definitely meant for people who have read at least most of her books, although I don't understand why you would pick it up unless you had.

I learned many new things and I just basically enjoyed reading about what makes Jane Austen such an awesome writer. I have seen many essays/lectures on male authors ( like Dostoyevsky or Tolstoi) but people seem to tell all the things they think are wrong, when it comes to a female author. I knew she was awesome and some of my thoughts (although not as refined) are definitely in the book, but also I realized why I like them so much and why my favorites are the books they are. Even though the book is fairly academic discussion, I find it very approachable and no previous knowledge in literature studies is necessary. ( )
  RankkaApina | Feb 22, 2021 |
Lightweight, slightly repetitive and thoroughly informative and enjoyable. Nice to get some proof (from an impeccable source) that of course Jane Austen knows exactly what she is doing - and how good and innovative she is.

After all, once you've read everything Jane Austen has written, read your favourites a few more times, changed your favourites over the years and read the new favourites over and over again, you do need something else to help refresh the next reading - and this does nicely. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
On the recommendation of another Goodreads and IRL friend, I got this book. I have been reading Jane Austen since age 10 when I read Pride and Prejudice for a library summer reading program. (And I think I was in my 30s and 3rd or 4th rereading when I realized that "eloping" had a different meaning than it does now!) Just goes to show that there is always something new to discover, and Mr. Mullan helped me discover quite a lot with these essays on such topics as illness, money, sex, etc. Now I'm afraid I'm going to have to embark on another course of rereading. Highly recommended for Janeites and those just beginning to read the novels. ( )
  auntieknickers | Aug 21, 2020 |
I bought this book because one of the reviews of the Book: The Secret Radical mentioned it as a more unbiased treatment. This book caused me to think more deeply about what is between the lines. It is a nice selection of questions.

1) How Much Does Age Matter?
2) Do Sisters Sleep Together?
3) What do the Characters Call Each Other? (This chapter reminded me that names are sacred.)
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 Class? (They matter a lot!)
9) Which Important Chatecters Never Speak in the Novels?
10) What Games do Character Play?
11) Is there any Sex in Jane Austen?
12) What do the 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? (Some shrewd analysis here)
16) Are Ill People Really to Balme for their Illnesses?
17) What Makes Characters Blush?
18) What are the Right and Wrong Ways to Propose?
19) When does Jane Austen Speak Directly to the Reader?
20) How Experimental a Novelist is Jane Austen?

In this review I am not including parts that I highlighted because Goodreads now does that for me on Kindle books. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (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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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.

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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?
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