Lit Crit was More Than You Ever Wanted To Know Was re Answersn from Diana See the Writing's On The Walls etc

Ven ven at
Mon Jun 4 21:50:50 EDT 2001

I wrote

> >OK I'll get on with it.......... I studied Northanger Abbey for O level
> >and Persuasion for A level. At the time I found Northanger Abbeyto
> >be interesting in concept but pretty dull in execution (all the
> >Janeites are gonna crucify me). Still, expecting 15 - 16 year old
> >girls to appreciate a novel which, essentially, takes the piss out of
> >young girls is expecting a bit much in my opinion. .................................
> >
> >Persuasion is the novel that really made me dislike JA. Based on
> >this novel I think she was spiteful, narrow minded, parochial and
> >quite lacking in empathy. I've always had a soft spot for Mary you
> >see.................................snip..............................
> > We were also told that the characters were partly
> >based on JA herself and some of her family. Well, frankly poor old
> >put upon Anne gets up my nose, its having it both ways to
> >represent oneself as uncomplaining in a book which does nothing
> >but complain about the rest of one's family. And I think only an
> >unempathetic, narrow minded and spiteful spinster would have
> >diagnosed her sister's problems as a mixture of hypochondria and
> >deceit. For heavens sake the poor woman had had three children at
> >the turn of the nineteenth century, not very surprising her health
> >was ruined.
 and Hallie replied
> Argh!  I really *should* be writing an essay, and I really *should* 
> leave this to the better-qualified among us, but...   Ok.  I have no 
> real basis for saying this, as I've never studied Persuasion or 
> Northanger Abbey, only read them numerous times, and you say that 
> your teachers were good but - 

To clarify, I'm too fond of my teacher for O and A level English to 
describe her as anything less than good, but she was something of 
a plodder. Her teaching methods led me to a love of Shakespeare 
and Donne and an appreciation of Chaucer but, yes, plodding 
through nineteenth century literature, page by page, is an 
excruciatingly dull way to do it. Somebody (whose post I have just 
tried and failed to find) pointed out how the fault often does not lie 
with the individual teacher but with the accumulated layers of the 
education system pace YOTG. 

-I would want a HUGE amount of trust in 
> the teacher to accept that Anne Elliot's family was based on 
> Austen's and that Anne was largely Jane herself.

Hold on I said "partly", not largely, and I'm sure they mentioned 
this in the publicity for the recent TV adaptation! As I understood it 
the resmblance between Anne and JA was one of situation rather 
than, strictly, character. Like JA Anne is an unmarried woman who 
is forced to leave a much loved family home and  go to live in Bath. 
Moreover according to the TV publicity she may have had a 
hopeless romance in her early twenties, like Anne. As to the rest 
of the family I'm quite sure I read or was told that Mary was a 
portrait of one of JA s married sisters.  

  I'm actually very 
> fond of Anne as a character, but there is no way that anyone who 
> writes in as acerbic a manner as JA could be thought to be like Anne! 

This was sort of my point.
> And about Mary, well, I guess it's always a case of differing 
> mileage, but I think it's pretty clear from the book that the whole 
> point was that there was nothing at all wrong with her health - she's 
> shown time and again to be perfectly full of energy when there's 
> something she wants to do. (The demanding to come on the "long walk" 
> when Captain W. et al are going, and only getting exhausted when she 
> sees that Charles wants to go visit his unacceptable-to-her-cousins 
> springs to mind.) 

This comes down a bit to where one thinks the author is standing. 
As she is presented everything you say about Mary is true. I'm 
taking issue with authorial predjudice here (well, what I suspect is 
predjudice). As I said I always had sympathy for Mary, but I must 
now declare an interest, insofar as I suffer from a chronic medical 
condition myself. I'm used to gritting my teeth to comments like "I 
see you're not too ill to go to the pub/on holiday/write to your dwj 
list" I'm making the last one up btw! I don't exonerate Mary from 
using her illness to get out of unpleasant things   (I don't blame her 
much either) but I do think she may have been genuinely ill. The 
question is whether she perfectly full of energy when there is 
something she wants to do or whether she wants to do things 
when she has the energy. Her disinclination to waste what energy 
she has on things like duty visits to her husband's relations seems 
quite reasonable to me .............  
> Northanger Abbey - well it's like TG and what follows on from that in 
> a lot of ways, IMHO.  (Thereby neatly - for once! - bringing in an 
> ob- etc.)  Satire of a literary style which the author feels has gone 
> a touch OTT.  But taking the mickey out of the gothic romances, 
> rather than young girls, I'd have thought.

It struck me as taking the piss out of gothic romances and their 
young female readers  together. At the time it seemed to be saying 
"watch out girls the world is duller and far more shoddy than you 

As Philip said some writers are not for some readers. And although 
Dorian was right to point out that books can be introduced at the 
wrong age (the thought of making 17 year old lads read 
Persuasion, rotfwl), I was well into my 30s before I could really 
enjoy Dickens for example, I don't think I'm ever going to love Jane 

I'm reminded of what Steven Brust did with a laundry list -- I think 
its in Teckla -- instructing his launderer? washperson? to take care 
of various stains, wine, red on the cuff, blood, brown on the sleeve 

Whoever you vote for the government will get back in.

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