Reading Jane Austen

Some months ago, I ate a tomato. Purely by accident, I had paid no attention to the way in which my deli sandwich had been prepared. Taken aback by (1) the seemingly exotic taste of this fruit, and (2) the pleasing way in which its textures and flavors combined with the other elements of the sandwich, it tasted good! The things is, I had hated tomatoes. So why the sudden change?

Don’t get me wrong, I know what a tomato tastes like. For years I had repelled at even the hint of its syrupy, acidic, “dirty-watered” guts. Yet, something was different. Surely the taste of tomato hadn’t changed?

Jane Austen—for years she had been a literary repellent. I don’t have any excuses; I suppose at some moment in my developmental history I’d been turned off to the name. I couldn’t really explain it then, and I can’t do it now, but even though I had never read any of her work, I wasn’t about to start. I would get around her, somehow. She became the butt of many a literary put-down on my behalf. “Sure, that character is completely and unjustly contrived, but he’s no Jane Austen.”

Like my chemoreceptional tastes had—apparently—changed, so too have my socioliterary interests turned in the direction of this author. More generally, I am interested in the writings and tastes of the 18th and 19th centuries, in part due to my work over at The Modern Dash, my exploration of modernism—its roots, voices, and meanings. Sound like an ambitious target? I get that a lot.

The Jane Austen Project

I intend to read through Austen’s major works, each of her six novels, over the span of three months. That’s an average of two weeks per book, which will be a daunting task given my other committments: work, exercise, and other reading (in that order, actually). This blog will serve as my log during this endevour. I am still developing the specifics and logistics of the Jane Austen Project in terms of my Projects system, but as it concerns this blog, I intend to write (1) face-value commentary on the text, and (2) make critical judgements about larger themes and narratologic choices. Along the way, hopefully I’ll develop a critical eye for these texts.

Some important background information: I haven’t ready any of Austen’s works. Neither have I seen any of the films based on her work, or any of the other “meta-fiction” based on the author’s life. I have no biographical knowledge of her other than what I’ve read on Wikipedia, at least none that I can remember. I’ll be changing that, though. If you are familiar with my style over at TMD, then you know that I prefer to incorporate primary and secondary sourcing whenever possible.

I am coming full speed as a blank slate at Jane Austen, but I’m a particularly judgemental slate. I got, like, scratches and stuff.

Explore posts in the same categories: Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

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6 Comments on “Reading Jane Austen”

  1. […] specifics of the project can be found at RJA, so I won’t repeat them here. However, my introductory post is especially worth taking a look at, as it offers a frank discussion of my decision to do this as […]

  2. Sylwia Says:

    I’m looking forward to reading your comments on Austen’s novels.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Laurel Ann Says:

    You are a unique test subject to read Austen since you have not read her before nor seen any of the movies. A true Austen virgin. You did not mention why you chose to read her.

    Good luck with your project. I shall be following along. Having read all of her works might I suggest a longer reading schedule? Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are fine for 2 weeks, but the rest should be extended to 3-4 weeks to really understand and enjoy them.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann

  4. Sylwia,

    Thank you for stopping by; I hope you will contribute your perspectives where you see appropriate.

    Laurel Ann,

    Thank you for the advice on a possible reading schedule. I have developed a preliminary schedule which would have me reading through all six novels in three months, including supplemental texts (criticisms, introductions, etc). I believe in being goal-oriented yet flexible; I will certainly adjust as needed.

    – joseph

  5. I would strongly recommend adding “Sanditon”, the fragment of Austen’s last novel, to your reading list, just because it’s so enjoyable.

  6. Rebecca H. Says:

    I’ll be following with interest! New perspectives on art are always so interesting, vital really.

    If there is any information you would like, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’d be happy to recommend some excellent critiques and introductions when you’re up to it. Personally, I like to read about a novel after I’ve read it rather than before.

    It’s always so exciting, starting a new reading project…bonne chance!

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