JA's possible reaction to our discussions
Posted by MB on January 14, 1998 at 11:11:11:
Sorry Kate, I know this was sort of discussed below, but I couldn't locate the original thread; I'm sure I blew right by it a couple of times! Anyway, this is from Ian Watt's intro (much more lucid than Butler's!) to Jane Austen : A Collection of Critical Essays.
"The reader's direct relation to the novel...is what really matters, and anything that intrudes upon this relation or, worse, becomes a substitute for it, has much to answer for. So, no doubt, would Jane Austen, the most lucid and the least recondite* of authors, have thought after she had recovered from the shock of discovering that writings about her, by people she didn't even know, and who sometimes got quite personal, were being read...
"And yet, apart from the vanity of authors, which is probably quite as reliable a constant as their professed alarm at finding themselves in an academic context, JA might well have been interested and amused by the present collection. For, among other things, it would at least have afforded her an opportunity of verifying one of the cardinal postulates of her novels : that our conversations to and about other people are actually unveilings of a more consequential reality, the self; that the ultimate purport of all our pronouncements is unwitting self-definition, an unconscious revelation of our manners, our passions, our intellectual capacities, and our operative moral values...
"JA's novels...testify to the truth that althought talk may not always illuminate its ostensible subject, it can at least be depended on to enlighten us about the talker..."
*Ian was being a tad recondite himself, so I had to look up the definition ("difficult to understand"). ;-)
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