In response (longish)
Posted by Linden on June 06, 1998 at 23:18:19:
In response to Grave Doubts, written by The Mysterious H.C. on June 06, 1998 at 22:12:18
Thank you for your thoughts.
] Since when is standing up for one's integrity, personal autonomy, and right to make one's own major life decisions necessarily "romanticism"???
Not necessarily so these days, but that's because the Romantic regard for the individual is now commonplace (perhaps we've overdone it :-> .) In JA's day, Elizabeth's statement would be a fairly strong one.
] Unless you can show that Jane Austen was in sympathy with, or specifically greatly influenced by, the literature or philosophy of romanticism (which I don't think you can do), then I don't really think you have much right to consider her part of romanticism, and that you would be misleading your students to present this as a simple factual uncontroversial proposition.
Thank you, I take your point, and I'll tone it down: it would indeed be misleading to call JA a Romantic in that unqualified way.
However, I think it can be established that JA was influenced by Romanticism: her favourite poets were Scott, Cowper and Crabbe, who can be regarded as part of the movement, if not full-blown Romantics like Byron. (BTW, I would include the Sensibility and Gothic trend as part of the Romantic movement, like tributaries flowing into a larger river.)
Furthermore, although she satirised excess of sensibility, she also condemned lack of feeling (as with Charlotte Lucas in P&P). Eventually, in "Persuasion", she comes down on the side of love without money, as Anne Elliot accepts that it was a mistake to have jilted Wentworth (though it's very, very qualified). Surely JA says that we need both Sense and Sensibility?
The attention to feeling and thought which she shows is very much part of Romanticism's approach to emotion. We often forget that the original Romantics did not discount sense and rationality: they were merely reacting against the sterile 18th century paradigm of "What oft was thought and ne'er so well expressed." Byron was a satirist as well as a Romantic.
So I'm willing to stand by an assertion that JA was influenced by Romanticism, and not merely reacting against it.
I'll add a further point: I think that, in this postmodernist age, we don't need to accept the canonical list of "Romantics". We should be looking at the way that authors like JA are seen now, as well as in their own time. In this context JA is very much a Romantic in the sense that has been pushed by Hollywood and Mills & Boon/Harlequin. Just look at some of the discussions on the P&P board.
Incidentally, that's why I want to quote from Pride & Prej as an introduction to Romanticism - many of the students will be familiar with it, in a way that they are not, alas, with Byron.
PS: One of the things I love about this whole site is the way that one can discuss both the influence of Romanticism on JA and the erotic appeal of Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle. Fun, eh?
- Further quibbles and cavils... The Mysterious H.C. 22:46:45 6/07/98 (0)
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