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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   Jane Austen's 'Emma' (271 comments)

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  •  I apologize if I caught you in the reply (14+ / 0-)

    I was venting a professional aggravation. Biographical criticism is one of my bugaboos to start with, and, generally, the stuff is on the ropes except where it comes to women authors. There is a cartoonish story of the Bronte sisters that people find endlessly fascinating -- it's awfully truthy -- that they had to hide their names, that no one would take them seriously if their sexes were known, etc.

    Well, for them it was true, but that was,
    1. Later,
    2. Class related,
    3. Due to their specific family.
    The children in that family were a mess, and the family was a distillation of the insanity of what we now think of as Victorianism. A wealthy lady of a "good" family at that time needed to hide her name, and one writing a novel that has the form of a romance would want to hide her sex to have the differences from the romance appear.

    Anyway, while biographical criticism is useful in the classroom, it's almost always apologetic in scholarship, except when it comes to female authors, where it seems like critics and fans insult the authors afresh by thinking their works can be explained by the authors' losses of men or trembly hearts. It took brains and strength to be an author then as now, and, despite the pose of ease, Austen, of all female authors, is least at ease.

    I just hope that each of us asks that our explanations of female authors are as intellectual and complicated as our explanations of male authors.  (The recent movie that wanted to make Austen's novels about her "broken heart" over missing out on The Guy seemed to be the worst of bad ideas.)

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 10:15:48 AM PST

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    •  I thoroughly enjoy your illuminating, deeply felt (8+ / 0-)

      comments. I know you've written book diaries before. Please, sir, may we have some more?

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 11:58:09 AM PST

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      •  I'd feel funny about it (11+ / 0-)

        I might, though, like to do something like "Why The Dunciad is worth your time" or, if a workshop I'm doing next week works, "Why writers should start with theme, not self."

        I'd love to just introduce folks to some of the characters who star in Pope's Dunciad. Not all the dunces are dunces, but the major dunces are pretty bad. I wrote the original Edmund Curll page at Wikipedia, and I don't think it has been changed much.

        Creative writing workshops emphasize "write what you know" and "look inside," and that's fine, but we know what happens when people do that. We get autobiography. We get novels about writers going to their high school reunions. I'd like to talk about how a person can start with, "What's bugging you" and then think of a metaphor or symbol for it and then work backward to events or characters who could enact or create that metaphor or symbol. I'm fixing to try this idea with some young writers. If the results are good, I'll try to work on it, since we do have a writing community.

        Everyone's innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 12:18:17 PM PST

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        •  Connie Willis has written, (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht, suka, poco, RiveroftheWest

          in an intro to a story in her collection Impossible Things, (http://en.wikipedia.org/...) that she started with the idea "if this goes on..." and followed it from there. I don't recall which story it was, but it might have been the one about censorship in the name of PC (e.g. not offending anyone, ever) and Shakespeare: "Ado"

          B/c the forces of Political Correctness and Never Offending an Idiot's Sensibilities have basically reduced "Much Ado About Nothing" to that single word: "Ado"

          It's a terrific story. And it's not "write what you know" but "write what you can imagine." I'm sure you know what I mean.

          Looking forward to seeing you blog about your writing workshops, The Geogre. At least, I certainly hope that you will bring your experiences to us via Readers & Book Lovers posts.

          Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

          by Youffraita on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 11:40:35 PM PST

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    •  Oh, Austen was tough. (6+ / 0-)

      I thought everyone who read her could see that.

      Wow.

      This thread proves that I was wrong: too many dismiss her.

      She was tough. Tough on her characters, tough on those she was lampooning -- tough in the sense that she could see through all the hypocrisy surrounding her.

      Thanks, The Geogre, for summing it up:

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 01:30:10 AM PST

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