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|Ch.5: Novel-reading, women and morality
Written by Line
(3/5/2009 3:01 p.m.)
I'm not entirely sure about the statistics here, but while reading the defense, it struck me that novel-reading (especially of the "less serious" variety) has traditionally been considered quite a female activity, and in a world where women were second-class citizens, any leisure activity they favoured must naturally be considered rather suspect and doubtful, especially if this form of literature was still rather new. Come to think of it, among the other novels listed in NA so far, there are a surprisingly high number of female *authors*, as well. Even more suspect!
Even today, those trying to encourage their kids to enjoy reading are advised that girls will read fiction, but if you have a boy who is an unenthusiastic reader, try him on *non*-fiction instead! I wonder how the critics of JA's time would have felt if the vast majority of those who took up novel-reading were men!
On the other hand, I seem to recall an NCE footnote pointing out that in "Mansfield Park", JA's most "moral" work, the lists of Fanny's books contain no novels at all, which confuses me. I can't remember which came first, NA or MP, but I wonder how JA really felt about novels towards the end of her life. I know the "anti-novel" attitude stuck around for a long time. I still remember a historical mini-series about the British royal family I saw years ago, where Queen Victoria's new daughter-in-law, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, told her proudly that she never read novels, but only religious texts. (This was in the 1860s).
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