Getting postmodernist, but readable, I hope
Posted by Linden on June 10, 1998 at 22:43:09:
In response to Questions, more than thoughts, written by Mark on June 10, 1998 at 20:20:01
Thank you everyone for replying to my posting: I've been provoked into further thoughts, as follows:
Getting into debate about whether someone is or is not a Romantic author is a waste of time. There are, however, two useful questions which can be asked:
(a) What were the influences on the writer? (historical literary criticism)
(b) How are the writer's works seen now? (In postmodernist terms, how are they reconstructed by readers nowadays?)
(a) Jane Austen was clearly influenced by the general literature of her period, which we can call the Romantic movement. We know this partly through her biography which tells us which were her favourite authors, but mainly through the way her works diplay some characteristic Romantic features:
• A high value on individual autonomy as opposed to following convention: Lizzy's rebuttal of Lady C is an excellent example of this.
• A high value on emotions and feelings. I grant that JA was ambivalent about this one. We have Catherine and Marianne both having to recognise their errors; on the other hand, a good part of their charm is their capacity for feeling. Perhaps JA came to value feeling more and more as she matured: "Northanger Abbey" and S&S are early works, while the later "Persuasion" clearly comes down on the side of feeling rather than the rational caution of Lady Russell.
• In particular, a value on love between man and woman: Darcy's much needed change of character is brought about, not by any moral teaching or rational thought, but by his overpowering love for Lizzy (thus making him a perfectly good Romantic hero).
• A value for the natural world: what is gently laughed at as a "passion for dead leaves" in S&S becomes the almost lyrical description of Lyme in "Persuasion".
(b) How are the works seen nowadays? I merely point to the sorts of postings in Pemberley, many of which show a pretty widespread view of Jane Austen as the thinking woman's Harlequin/Mills & Boon.
I am aware that Austen is not regarded as a canonical Romantic. Sorry to get postmodernist about this, but IMHO, ideas of the canon - a set list of who's in and who's out - are out of place.
On second thoughts, I'm not sorry to get postmodernist about it. The whole Pemberley scene is thoroughly postmodernist, in the way that allows people from all over the world to construct JA, and to compare constructions without feeling the need to come up with The Answer.
The only way in which the board is not postmodernist is that most people write intelligibly and politely, unlike your average postmodernist with the writing ability of a constipated rottweiler.
Thank you once again.
- Some objections Constanza 11:35:25 6/12/98 (0)
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