Archive for the ‘Mansfield Park’ category

Follow RJA on Twitter

March 30, 2009

I will be updating my Twitter account with updates on Reading Jane Austen posts. I’m doing this not only so that people might have another option when it comes to viewing update (if a reader is Twitter-centric versus RSS-centric), but as an added way to cap off a posting.

My recent experience has been that these posts take up more time than I had originally anticipated: first there’s reading the content, then analyzing it (usually along the way), synthesizing it, writing it, and uploading it to this platform and within the boundaries of my Tools for a Close Reading of Jane Austen. And there will still be a typo or two.

Posting it on Twitter will serve as a way for me to acknowledge to myself that “I’m done!”

Not sure what Twitter is? Check out the main page here. My tweets are located here.

Would Jane Austen use Twitter?


My Schedule for Reading Jane Austen

January 12, 2009

In my quest to uncover the secrets of Jane Austen I have come up with a reading plan. I consulted some electronic and real-person sources to lay out Austen’s six novels in the order in which they were generally written. Perhaps reading the novels in that order will tell me something about the evolution of the writing.

The Tentative Schedule

Here is a tentative list (as of January 12, 2009) of the order and general time frame that I will be reading Austen’s novels:

Sense and SensibilityJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus viewing/criticism of a film adaptation.

Northanger AbbeyJanuary 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text after a reading of Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, plus supplementary texts.

Pride and PrejudiceFebruary 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus heavy supplementary texts and criticism of at least 2 film adaptations.

Mansfield Park February 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus criticism of a film adaptation.

EmmaMarch 2009, approximately 3 weeks of reading. Goal: full text plus supplementary texts.

PersuasionMarch 2009, approximately 2 weeks of reading. Goal: full text.

So, from the above list, you can probably tell that I expecting to have some overlap. I am also concentrating (by way of a closer reading and more supplementary materials) on Pride and Prejudice. My goal is to finish the reading by April 1, 2009. I will continue commenting and exploring thereafter, of course, but this timeline is meant for the 3-month period through January and March 2009.

At the time of this reading, I have secured supplementary texts for Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey (including Radcliffe’s The Italian, which I intend to read as a bit of background into the type of literature I know Northanger to be referencing). Regarding the film adaptations, I may reroute those goals to fit a timeframe separate from the original 3-month reading timeframe; I hope this will be nailed down by the end of January.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. In particular, I am looking for literary or social criticism of Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, and any film adaptations that may be floating out there that have want for my word-daggers.

The Project Artifact

I will be creating an “artifact” as part of my 3-month crash-course study of Jane Austen. I am still trying to work out the details of how this works, but generally an artifact is a novel creation—physical or electronic—that can serve as a exemplifying feature of my work, or perhaps a demonstration of something that I have learned.

For this project, I am still considering options, but I want to finalize the idea by February 1, 2009. Maybe it’s an electronic list? Maybe it’s a trinket that displays “Handsome” or “Not handsome” upon pressing a button?

Let me know if you have any ideas about what I can create as an artifact for Reading Jane Austen.

Organizing a Post: My Tools for a Close Reading of Jane Austen

January 2, 2009

To add some form to my posts and try to create some continuity among them, I have developed what I am calling the “Leads System.” A “lead” is a section header. Posts usually have sections of text—the theme or purpose of the content can change— but having the text appear as one long unit can be intimidating, even for someone who is dedicated to reading the topic. So to make a post more navigable, a lead will help someone find what most interests them the fastest.

You can think of a lead as a type of newspaper article: sometimes there’s a local report, a national report, a foreign correspondence, an opinion/editorial, and so on. These distinct sub-types of presenting data serve the ultimate goal of informing the reader. For the purpose of Reading Jane Austin, the goal of these sub-types is to help convey my commentary in the fastest way possible.

I like to explore the interplay between form and function, and in that spirit, it should be noted that not every post has every sub-type, or lead. I hope you will find that the names given to these headers are in keeping with the spirit and tone of this blog.

Here are my leads, grouped vaguely by importance and in keeping with the way I view a post on my topic:


  • Opening (no header used) provides a brief description/location of the text, opening thoughts, etc.
  • Plot Points summarize, for context, the plot of the text in question

Core Leads

  • Character Commentary personal commentary and opinion on character development
  • Themes and Threads discussion of larger plot development as it relates to the themes; attempt to located and describe themes
  • Narratology Notes my thoughts on narration as it is used to develop the themes; attempt to locate structural components
  • Language: Diction and Thesaur discussion of interesting uses of words to create descriptions, contexts, and comparisons
  • In Context discussion of the story as a product of the life and times of its author

Vanity Leads

  • Out of Context discussion of the story as a comment on my life and times, or that of a different universe
  • Style Points my praise for the author, or one of the story’s structural/thematic components; only for the really extraordinary or not appropriate for another lead
  • Shame on Jane my noting something that bothers me or my tastes; I won’t abuse this one, I promise
  • Memorables a listing of any memorable or striking quotes, scenes, or characterizations


  • Looking Ahead ending commentary or speculation on how the discussed content relates to what I think might be to come
  • Closing (no header used) any metaanalytic information I have to convey, such as indicating if I’ll be out of town for a month

These are intended to help me organize the process of getting through a close reading Austen’s six novels; other posts that will inevitably appear here but are not contained in the above categories include: (1) biographical information on Jane Austen; (2) readings of other published criticisms (academic or otherwise); (3) posts related to group discussion of the texts; and (4) posts dedicated to large-scale or end-of-project commentary.

Reading Jane Austen

January 1, 2009

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.