What an excellent post!!!!!
Posted by Helen on January 13, 1998 at 14:49:14:
In response to Making the ordinary, the everyday the ideal , written by Erin on January 12, 1998 at 23:33:51
(the exclamation marks are there because this was really, really good to read)
] I have come to believe with some certainty that Austen posited an ideal existence possibility grounded in Enlightenment thought (primarily an idea of freedom of self determined through rational reflection --I would point you to one of the many biographies/histories of Austen and her era for affirmation of this statement) and a Christian spiritual ethic (which promotes obedience to the social order). I do not view her ideal as unconditionally radical. She is an author who is keenly aware of the rules and rituals of her society; and offers, through her heroines, an ideal that can fundamentally be defined as symmetrical. As such, Austen also criticizes (through satire) some of the absurdities wrought by the rules/rituals, e.g., in the end, Lydia's marrige is considered necessary and 'good', even though it is preceived by many that Wickham's a lout.
I agree with this 100% - very well said!
I also agree with lots else, but I'm in a rush (Erin tuts resignedly) and so I'll hastily get my little bit in re. something else Patrick has said: his objections to schematic analysis of the characters because it implies a schematic conception on the part of the author to which he takes exception (please forgive the paraphrase, Patrick, and be gentle with it).
Here we get into the debate about the function of criticism. To some extent, criticism is always going to be reductive of the art it analyzes, and an analysis of the parts is always going to omit something of the magic of the whole. But the best literature is an organic creation: it is in fact so excellent because the parts, the schemes and structures are not mechanically put together but flow seamlessly as one. And the truly great writers create complex works capable of analysis along many lines. So our simple statements of certain schemes and balances never imply that these are the only ones in operation: they are only the ones we choose to highlight at any given moment.
And I admit to being baffled as to your (Patrick's) insistence that JA opposed order. Maybe I'm reading too fast... but though she certainly seems to find objectionable certain things in society/human relationships, she never seems to argue overtly for the abandonment of social conventions: I would say, more for the fulfillment of them (eg. not the abolishment of marriage, which could be driven by material considerations or lust, but marriage as the rationally considered and emotionally satisfying union of two like-minded souls).
Sorry, this is very rushed, but I'm kind of excited by the latest developments in Northern Irish politics at the moment and have been frantically reading newspapers (it's my home country, in case you're wondering why)
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