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Written by Rachel G
(10/14/2010 6:54 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, An interesting MP paper from JASNA, penned by Cathy Allen
Thank you for posting this thought provoking article. I like the picture of 'Mary's' harp, and I'm especially glad to see the map of Portsmouth and it's ramparts - I've been looking for one for weeks.
I'd certainly agree with Wiltshire's premise that "historicisation", in other words knowledge of the world and society that JA was writing about, enables us to read her work with greater understanding. Without it we are sometimes danger of missing the point, so Long live L&T! (and may the archive never wither).
At the same time it isn't always necessary and an "innocent reading" is perfectly possible. We do not need to know what contemporary readers would have known about Portsmouth to appreciate the culture shock which Fanny experienced, because JA tells us what she needs us to know. She shows us Portsmouth as Fanny experienced it - the cramped little rooms, the noise, her father dirty and gross, her mother a dawdling slattern, the coarse manners and disappointing personal relationships. These are what impact upon Fanny, so the geography of Portsmouth and the prostitutes in the High Street are irrelevant.
Also, JA's supreme talent was the nuanced delineation of human nature and behaviour in all it's variety. Time and again we recognise in her characters aspects of people we have met in our own world. Society has altered greatly but human nature remains pretty much the same. So in many respects an historically uninformed "innocent" reader can understand very well what is really the point of JA's novels.
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