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Bill_T
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Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

Some have argued that much of the appeal of Jane Austen lies in nostalgia, and the wish to escape to a world supposedly better than our own. Do you think this is true? If true, would it undermine the validity of her appeal?


Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first section Pride and Prejudice, through the end of Volume 1. If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

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lawyermom
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I don't think that the novel evokes nostalgia. The time and location of the narrative are far from most readers experiences so they cannot be remembered fondly or with longing. Austin's focus on human foibles, which are timeless, gives her novel its enduring charm.
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Everyman
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

Just curious, lawyermom. Are you a lawyer who's also a mom? Or the mom of a lawyer? (Or maybe both??)

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misslizzie
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia


Bill_T wrote:
Some have argued that much of the appeal of Jane Austen lies in nostalgia, and the wish to escape to a world supposedly better than our own. Do you think this is true? If true, would it undermine the validity of her appeal?

Interesting thought. I don't think the author's appeal as a brilliant author could be diluted by a readers preference for that place and/or time. I began reading this book simply because I heard several references to it's brilliance in a couple movies I had seen so I decided to read it and thought it was wonderful. When we went to England for six months a couple years ago, I came to a deeper understanding of the place and time as well as the people and the 'simple life' which did endear the book to me more but I don't think my love for England and my life there weakens the author's well-earned admiration from me.

On a side note - if anyone is going over there and can make their way to the village of Lacock - on the way to Bath - (famous abbey there was also used in Harry Potter movies) it is worth the effort. The 1995 BBC version of the book was filmed there and you can really 'see it'. There is just one main road and it's very short - if you stand at the end of it and look towards the Abbey and the tithe barn you can 'see' the town of Merryton but with cars rather than dirt and horses. Very cool!
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drclawgirl
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I think one of the biggest reasons it is so popular even today is because we can all relate to it. We can see ourselves in the story. We see ourselves getting upset with one character and being happy for another. She is able to write in such a way that you feel you really know the people. And there seems to be a shortage of writers today who have this ability. A great author is one who can bring their characters to life and Jane Austen has done this.
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia



lawyermom wrote:
I don't think that the novel evokes nostalgia. The time and location of the narrative are far from most readers experiences so they cannot be remembered fondly or with longing.

Isn't this a question of what we mean by nostalgia? I agree that it isn't what we might term direct nostalgia -- nostalgia for things that we experienced personally in our younger years.

But isn't there an indirect nostalgia, which is a longing for a life we never lived but wish we had been able to? Don't some of us have nostalgia for the "lazy, hazy days of summer" in small town America, with the town square, Atticus Finch strolling down the dusty street to his office, kids playing sandlot baseball with a battered ball, a single bat, jackets for bases, and not a Little League parent or coach or umpire in sight? I think it's that level of nostalgia that is at work in Austen. A time when manners and civilized living were paramount (we won't think about the many servants living who had to carry hot water by hand up three flights of stairs every time somebody wanted a bath, the miners digging coal by hand in deplorable and horribly dangerous conditions to dig the coal to heat the geyser and keep the rooms warm, etc. We all see ourselves as one of the gentry, inhabitants of the drawing rooms and smoking clubs.)

I don't know about you, but there are times when I do feel nostalgia for those simpler (for the rich), less stressed, more civilized times.
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LutherJen
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I wouldn't say the appeal lies so much in nostalgia, but rather a fascinating glimpse into a world that is so different from our own. Austen paints a wonderful picture of her world through her writing, and she does it in such a way that we feel like we are right there watching Darcy and Elizabeth dance at the ball. What is amazing to me is that although these characters are in a different time and place, we are still able to relate to their trials and triumphs.
~"Only a novel"... in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.~Northhanger Abbey
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DavidShapard
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia



LutherJen wrote:
I wouldn't say the appeal lies so much in nostalgia, but rather a fascinating glimpse into a world that is so different from our own. Austen paints a wonderful picture of her world through her writing, and she does it in such a way that we feel like we are right there watching Darcy and Elizabeth dance at the ball. What is amazing to me is that although these characters are in a different time and place, we are still able to relate to their trials and triumphs.




I agree that that is what is so amazing about Austen. I think a lot of the reason is her brilliant insight into human psychology, much of which stays the same even when social circumstances change.

The charge of nostalgia has been leveled most frequently by those critical of the great popularity of Austen, and perhaps especially in response to the populariy of the films and tv adaptations of her. It could certainly be argued that their appeal is partly based on the beautiful sets and costumes provided. One might also speculate that one is more conscious of the different nature of her society when watching an adaptation than when reading her, since in the former one's eyes are always being confronted by such a different visual environment (though of course the books always present you with a very different type of English).
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia



DavidShapard wrote:
I think a lot of the reason [for Austen's popularity] is her brilliant insight into human psychology, much of which stays the same even when social circumstances change.

That's a really nice point. While some people may object to what seems to be a sterile upper class environment for the books, we see clearly that underneath the patina of excruciatingly "correct" manners and conventions the basic emotions and motivations of the characters are irrelevant of class lines.

CAUTION -- POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS -- REFERENCE TO EVENTS IN CHAPTERS 13-23

How many poor, socially lower class women, for example, have followed the example of Charlotte Lucas and, having failed to find a husband during their relative youth, have accepted whatever husband would take them, support them, and give them a home away from their parents without a requirement that they love, or even respect, their husbands so long as they were willing to be dutiful wives?
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lablover
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I don't know about you, but there are times when I do feel nostalgia for those simpler (for the rich), less stressed, more civilized times.



Only a man would find such times simpler and less stressed. A man in such times didn't have to worry about constant childbirth, lack of employment, government sanctioned spousal abuse and the ever-present possibility of being left homeless because of entailed property.

Although she is flaky, I don't wonder at Mrs. Bennett's single-minded obsession with marrying off her daughters to wealthy men. I rather find it offensive and sexist that Mr. Bennet doesn't share her desire for the same. But then, he'll never be forced out of his home.
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia



lablover wrote:
Although she is flaky, I don't wonder at Mrs. Bennett's single-minded obsession with marrying off her daughters to wealthy men. I rather find it offensive and sexist that Mr. Bennet doesn't share her desire for the same.

I think perhaps you're being a bit hard on him.

Granted, he loves to toy with Mrs. Bennett's passion to get the girls married, but I don't see any evidence that he doesn't want them married to wealthy (or wealthy enough) men. Although he pretends that he won't, he does go to see Mr. Bingley promptly after his arrival, which requires a return visit so Mr. B can see the girls. He allows all five daughters to attend balls, which some strict fathers might not; he presumably provides the money for them to buy adequate gowns for the balls; he allows them to walk around town unchaperoned; he allows Jane to go over to Netherfield, Lydia to go to Bath, Jane to go to London, and Lizzie to go on a tour, all of which as less indulgent father could easily have forbidden.

True, he doesn't join Mrs. B in demanding that Lizzie marry Mr. Collins, but do you really want him to have?

Really, other than taking them to London for the season, what would you have had him do to procure wealthy hubands?
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PEGSmom
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia


Everyman wrote:


lablover wrote:
Although she is flaky, I don't wonder at Mrs. Bennett's single-minded obsession with marrying off her daughters to wealthy men. I rather find it offensive and sexist that Mr. Bennet doesn't share her desire for the same.

I think perhaps you're being a bit hard on him.

Granted, he loves to toy with Mrs. Bennett's passion to get the girls married, but I don't see any evidence that he doesn't want them married to wealthy (or wealthy enough) men. Although he pretends that he won't, he does go to see Mr. Bingley promptly after his arrival, which requires a return visit so Mr. B can see the girls. He allows all five daughters to attend balls, which some strict fathers might not; he presumably provides the money for them to buy adequate gowns for the balls; he allows them to walk around town unchaperoned; he allows Jane to go over to Netherfield, Lydia to go to Bath, Jane to go to London, and Lizzie to go on a tour, all of which as less indulgent father could easily have forbidden.

True, he doesn't join Mrs. B in demanding that Lizzie marry Mr. Collins, but do you really want him to have?

Really, other than taking them to London for the season, what would you have had him do to procure wealthy hubands?




I have strange feelings for Mr. Bennet....I like him because of his humor. His greatest form of entertainment is getting Mrs. Bennet (especially) and the girls all excited, emotionally "worked up", watches with delight......just long enough.. and then heads of to the library for some peace and quiet. But at the same time, I dislike him for that, what bothers me is the fact that he allows his girls to wonder around unchaperoned and does not insist on improving their education, etc to enhance their chances in finding suitable husbands. He thought they would produce a son, but when it came apparent that it would not happen and it was a little too late for saving money, he could have been a bit more interested in them instead of hiding in the library. However, if I were in his shoes, having to spend a life with someone like Mrs. B.......I'd hide in the library too!
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

[ Edited ]
Rather than the appeal of Jane Austen being in nostalgia, does anyone feel the appeal could be the same as the romance novel genre with Pride and Prejudice being a historical period romance? People enjoy finding out how everyone will be matched up by the end of the book.
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Message Edited by Librarian on 06-25-2007 10:21 PM
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

In my own case, it's neither, really. For me, the greatest appeals are the wit, the superb writing on a technical level, and the insights into human character. That it's all set in a more peaceful (at least seeming to to us; she probably didn't think so with Napoleon over there on the continent threatening to invade England), pastoral period is an added bonus. Finding out how everyone will be matched up in the end is fun the first time you read the book, but after that you know, so it has to be other things that keep one re-reading the book over and over with equal or greater enjoyment each time.

Librarian wrote:
Rather than the appeal of Jane Austen being in nostalgia, does anyone feel the appeal could be the same as the romance novel genre with Pride and Prejudice being a historical period romance? People enjoy finding out how everyone will be matched up by the end of the book.
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Message Edited by Librarian on 06-25-2007 10:21 PM

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JesseBC
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html
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CallMeLeo
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

Thanks for sharing the column from Salon.com. I agree, JesseBC, much of the concentration is on the romance rather than on the class and gender issues in her work, and often the sutblety with which she approaches these subjects is passed over for the romance alone. Sad but true that we are idealizing a time of economic and social repression for women.



JesseBC wrote:
I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html


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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

Oh, cool! There's somebody still around!

I think the gist of the Salon article was that the Austen fad is missing the joke (and therefore, unwittingly, becoming the butt of it). They're interpreting as serious what was written as satire.





CallMeLeo wrote:
Thanks for sharing the column from Salon.com. I agree, JesseBC, much of the concentration is on the romance rather than on the class and gender issues in her work, and often the sutblety with which she approaches these subjects is passed over for the romance alone. Sad but true that we are idealizing a time of economic and social repression for women.



JesseBC wrote:
I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html





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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

And they are interpreting it in a way that Austen would have scorned!




JesseBC wrote:
Oh, cool! There's somebody still around!

I think the gist of the Salon article was that the Austen fad is missing the joke (and therefore, unwittingly, becoming the butt of it). They're interpreting as serious what was written as satire.





CallMeLeo wrote:
Thanks for sharing the column from Salon.com. I agree, JesseBC, much of the concentration is on the romance rather than on the class and gender issues in her work, and often the sutblety with which she approaches these subjects is passed over for the romance alone. Sad but true that we are idealizing a time of economic and social repression for women.



JesseBC wrote:
I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html








And they are interpreting it in a way that Austen would have scorned.
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

I wouldn't say that Austen was writing satire.

JesseBC wrote:
Oh, cool! There's somebody still around!

I think the gist of the Salon article was that the Austen fad is missing the joke (and therefore, unwittingly, becoming the butt of it). They're interpreting as serious what was written as satire.





CallMeLeo wrote:
Thanks for sharing the column from Salon.com. I agree, JesseBC, much of the concentration is on the romance rather than on the class and gender issues in her work, and often the sutblety with which she approaches these subjects is passed over for the romance alone. Sad but true that we are idealizing a time of economic and social repression for women.



JesseBC wrote:
I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html








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JesseBC
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Nostalgia

You'd have a hard time getting that past anyone who's studied Austen when she has all the earmarks of a satirist -- heavy use of irony, ridiculing the folly of class and gender relationships of the time, the evident sarcasm right from the opening line.

Especially looking at a character like Mrs. Bennet, it's clear Austen wasn't intending to be taken entirely seriously except, perhaps, by the very people she was mocking.





Everyman wrote:
I wouldn't say that Austen was writing satire.

JesseBC wrote:
Oh, cool! There's somebody still around!

I think the gist of the Salon article was that the Austen fad is missing the joke (and therefore, unwittingly, becoming the butt of it). They're interpreting as serious what was written as satire.





CallMeLeo wrote:
Thanks for sharing the column from Salon.com. I agree, JesseBC, much of the concentration is on the romance rather than on the class and gender issues in her work, and often the sutblety with which she approaches these subjects is passed over for the romance alone. Sad but true that we are idealizing a time of economic and social repression for women.



JesseBC wrote:
I'll keep this short since it doesn't appear anyone's still around to discuss the book. But the question of nostalgia was the focus of a recent Salon article about the current Jane Austen fad -- the idea being that Austen is enjoying a surge of popularity as a Regency romance writer and her role as a cultural satirist is being overlooked.

Which I think addresses some of the questions as to, for example, whether Mr. Bennett is a sympathetic character or an insensitive brute who isn't concerned about marrying off his daughters to wealthy men. That choice itself between marrying off a daughter like selling a piece of furniture versus having her turned out of her home on her ear are exactly the kinds of things Austen was criticizing. It wasn't all just fancy ballgowns and sassy heroines making doe-eyes at tall, dark, and handsomes.


http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/06/27/jane_austen/index.html











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