“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”– Jane Austen, Emma (1813)
In an age when (for whatever reason) admitting you admire Jane Austen is akin to saying you loved the Twilight series, I’m proud to be a Jane Austen student. I enjoy the works of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth-century English novelist so much, not only do I re-read her novels (a chapter each evening from a big old fat Modern Library edition of her Complete Novels), I am also a member of JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America) as well as the local Pittsburgh chapter, and I enjoy reading critical analysis, reviews, and commentary on her works. There have been some really good ones lately that the library owns (what?! Did you think I actually bought these? Please!).
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. A charming and funny analysis of Austen’s major works as it relates to the Austen scholar and his life. From his first naïve assumption of Austen as an old form of “chick lit” to the eventual realization of the profound impact of her writing, Deresiewicz carefully analyzes each novel centered around a specific theme.
Why Jane Austen? by Rachel M. Brownstein. A professor of feminist criticism and English literature in New York, Brownstein explores the reasons why Austen’s work still resonates almost 200 years after her death. This is more scholarly than A Jane Austen Education but it is an interesting commentary on the novelist’s genius.
Jane Austen and Marriage by Hazel Jones. This one is on my reserve list but I have read some preview pages on Amazon. The author explores why marriage was so important in Austen’s time and why it was a prominent theme in her works. Many people today tend to dismiss Austen as a writer of sentimental women’s novels about courtship and marriage but, the fact is, as Austen wrote in a letter to her niece, “single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor.”
The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. This one is also on my reading list and is an updated edition of a 1997 publication. This book consists of several essays written by well-known Austen scholars including Janet Todd and Deirdre Le Faye.
The Annotated Sense and Sensibility edited by David M. Shapard. For the Austen student who just can’t get enough, this is the novel filled with notes on unfamiliar vocabulary, contexts, as well as historical references to occasions and manners. Also includes maps and an amazing bibliography for further reading. Shapard has also done annotated editions (which the library owns) of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion (and Emma will be published in 2012!).