Pride and Prejudice, the feminist edition

Summary: Feminists are building a new culture for America. Here two feminist Professors gives us a glimpse of life in the promised land.

“And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.”
— A speech by union leader Nicholas Klein in 1914. See the origins of this insight.

A Feminist’s revised version of Pride and Prejudice.

The feminist revised version of "Pride and Prejudice"


What are the origins of the #meToo movement, with its wildly varying concepts of harassment? The foundations were laid in America’s universities, with generations of young women instructed in the ways of feminism. Two Professors of English demonstrate this thinking in their analysis of Pride and Prejudice.

Paula Marantz Cohen

What Jane Austen Can Teach Us About Sexual Harassment.”

By Paula Marantz Cohen.
An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
She is a Dean and Professor of English at Drexel University.

“If you’re struggling to make sense of the sexual-harassment issues swirling around us, you could do worse than read Jane Austen. I was struck by this recently while teaching what she called her “rather too light and bright and sparkling” novel, Pride and Prejudice.

“Consider the portion of the novel in which Elizabeth Bennet is proposed to by the egregiously foolish and self-important Mr. Collins. …

“The scene caricatures a familiar dynamic in recent news: A powerful man believes that a vulnerable woman will succumb to him. He equates his power with attractiveness and confuses her resistance with playful seductiveness. …

“That said, even Jane Austen, writing more than 200 years ago, knew what the right behavior looked like in the face of a harasser. Elizabeth was decisive and clear in rejecting Mr. Collins.”

“Succumb” to a “harasser.” That sounds horrible. Did he stalk her for days, or weeks? Did he pressure her to accept a fate worse than death? Mr. Collins was heir to an estate; Elizabeth was almost penniless. The dastardly scoundrel asked Elizabeth to marry him.

The face of a harasser.

Mr. Collins proposing to Elizabeth

Perhaps it was the form of the proposal to which Cohen objects. In the new world, all proposals of marriage will be graded by a feminist English Professor. An “F” will mean the miscreant will be branded an harasser. But it gets scene takes a darker turn, as Cohen describes.

“But it is also true that some men do not take the hint — or are even incited by the resistance, as Mr. Collins initially appears to be.”

How true. After Elizabeth said “no”, Mr. Collins had the audacity to repeat his proposal – saying 14 more sentences (very politely). This must have taken two minutes! Harassment! Cohen would have had Collins before a University Tribunal for that.

A second perspective on Pride and Prejudice

Pauline Beard, Professor Emeritus of English at Pacific University (long-time chair of that department) wrote to the WSJ Editor, explaining that Mr. Darcy was also a harasser.

“Darcy’s proposal is the one which really exemplifies sexual harassment: power and extreme wealth held over a (financially) vulnerable woman. …Darcy’s proposal …is even more hostile and pressuring than Mr. Collins’s. Alone in Mr. Collins’s house with no family hovering, Elizabeth must confront Darcy, who has fought against his attraction to her and expresses disdain for her family. …

“Mr. Collins’s proposal is a caricature of power over women. Darcy’s proposal is the one which really exemplifies sexual harassment: power and extreme wealth held over a (financially) vulnerable woman who, despite his prejudices, has stirred within him some sexual feelings.”

Unlike today’s snowflakes, Elizabeth shows no distress at Darcy proposing without her “family hovering” nearby. Let’s look at Darcy’s “hostile and pressuring” proposal.

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

He then shares his feelings, honestly and forthrightly. She does not like the proposal, and says no. As couples often do, they fell into no-holds-bar fighting. Elizabeth won. Beard explains why this is “harassment.”

“His anger at Elizabeth’s refusal is palpable. He turns pale, he struggles to appear composed. A daunting silence “was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful’ and when he retreats after her calm and reasoned refusal, she doesn’t know ‘how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour.” For a man to bring fiery Lizzy to that result – now that is sexual harassment.”

This is a daft reading of the text. First, see that Austin describes Elizabeth’s emotions as similar to Mr. Darcy’s: “Elizabeth felt herself angry every moment; yet she tried to speak with composure when she said….” More importantly, we see this theme in the #meToo movement and often in regulations about sexual harassment: the standard is how the woman feels. The man must anticipate how the woman will feel in response to his actions. Not only does this require superhuman insight, but it is completely one-sided. But how he feels about her speech and actions is irrelevant.

This is what feminists consider harassment.

This begins as a proposal and ends as no-holds-barred fight. Elizabeth wins on points. Do you see harassment?


Many feminists have abandoned equal treatment of men and women, seeking new standards that give women new privileges. As we see here, feminists want the authoritarian apparatus of government and corporations engaged to prevent women from having hurt feelings from their interactions with men. This is just one aspect of their professed plans to remake America’s culture. They are doing this the slow but effective way, molding the thinking of young women — one classroom at a time, generation after generation.

There are many ways this can play out. None of them are good for men, or women, or America.

The harassment-free version of Pride and Prejudice.

The harassment-free "Pride and Prejudice"

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about society and gender issuesabout feminism, about sexual assaultabout rape, and especially these…

  1. The unexpected response to the sexual harassment crisis.
  2. Weaponizing claims of sexual harassment for political gain.
  3. Mysteries and ironies of the next new sexual revolution.
  4. Worrying while the harassment fires burn out of control.
  5. Second thoughts about romance in the #MeToo age.
  6. The amazing numbers behind the #MeToo movement!
  7. News from the front lines as the meToo madness spreads.
  8. Look beyond the stories to see how we define harassment.

Two great ways to experience Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition — This is the one I have.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version) — By far the best film version!

Pride and Prejudice - the annotated edition.
Available at Amazon.
Pride and Prejudice - 1995 version
Pride & Prejudice (1995 BBC version)

21 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice, the feminist edition”

    1. Pshaw. We’re far, far closer to draconian rule by Christians than by Muslims. It wasn’t Islamists who gave police the right to confiscate whatever they wanted, gave the NSA its power to listen to any conversation, or decided the president can have an American killed if he thinks he might be up to no good.

    2. Islam hasn’t locked up tens of thousands of Americans for nonviolent crimes, ordered airport security to grope passengers, decided torture isn’t cruel and unusual, etc.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        You appear quite confused.

        “Islam hasn’t locked up tens of thousands …”

        Few religion in today’s world “lock up” people. Governments do. Governments of Islamic nations like Iran and Egypt have locked up lots of people for their politics (perhaps 60,000 in Egypt).

        “for nonviolent crimes”

        What should be done with people who steal and defraud others. Who sell heroin to schoolkids? Do you recommend a slap on the wrist or a stern talking-to?

        “decided torture isn’t cruel and unusual”

        That’s the standard under the Constitution for punishment in the US. That’s not what Team Bush did. Of course, that doesn’t make it morally right — but details matter.

  1. These people have no idea how to read. Its the idea that you can analyze a serious novel by reference to character and plot. They are reading a very carefully written novel as if it was an historical account of some real life individuals. This is the ‘How many children had Lady Macbeth’ fallacy. This leads to such idiocies as asking whether Mr Woodhhouse may actually have had syphilis.

    The two questions are totally meaningless. Its the creeping influence and conditioning done by too many trashy novels, too many trashy movies, and too many TV series.

    This then combined with a post-modern approach to evidence and meaning, whose apotheoisis was in “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl”. Here the author free associates between a completely mad reading of an episode in Sense and Sensibility, and an historical account of the maltreatment of a girl in late 19c France, whose connection with Jane Austen is exactly zero. This allows people to say that the meaning of anything is how I react to it, and also that what really matters is whatever I am thinking right now. There is no objective interpretation, there are no criteria for relevance, any objections to whatever I just said are politically incorrect.

    If you want to understand Jane Austen, read QD Leavis’ series, “Lady Susan into Mansfield Park”. It is reprinted in her collected essays, and you can also find it in the two volumes of selections from Scrutiny published as paperbacks.

    Also, get and read LC Knights original paper on Lady Macbeth’s children.

    The opening paragraph of Pride and Prejudice is a touchstone for whether a critic or individual knows how to read. It is comparable to the opening para of The Secret Sharer. Nothing in it is to be taken at face value, nothing is a simple description, this has been written and rewritten by one of the great stylists of the language, someone for whom her technique had, through constant rewriting, become so much part of her method of composition that if vanishes. And what it is saying without actually voicing it at all is an image of marriage as a market in goods, one which is shared by both sexes. And the chapter is going on to point out what kind of personal relations such an approach ends up in.

    This is why dramatizations are simply not dramatisations of Pride and Prejudice. Because its a novel, not a play. If you want to see something similar done on stage, read Ibsen. Its brilliantly done, but its different. If you cannot read the author’s narrative in Jane Austen, what you are getting is not the novel. Its a different work, constructed on the basis of the same plot and characters.

    But character and plot are not the point of Jane Austen. Any more than they are in, say, ‘Speech after long silence’ by Yeats. The point is the double vision and the omniscient narrator, which she invented. Its took a genius with an infinite capacity for work and rework, in a very particular intellectual environment. It was no sort of miracle, but it is an achievement of astounding excellence.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Thanks for the pointer to “Questions of Evidence: Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl” by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in Critical Inquiry (A U of Chicago Press Journal), Summer 1991. The author is another feminist Professor of English. It’s gated.; here’s an open copy (might not work)– here is its Google cache. Abstract.

      “There seems to be something self-evident—irresistibly so, to judge from its gleeful propagation—about the use of the phrase, “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl,” as the Q.E.D. of phobic narratives about the degeneracy of academic discourse in the humanities. But what? The narrative link between masturbation itself and degeneracy, though a staple of pre-1920s medical and racial science, no longer has any respectable currency.

      “To the contrary: modern views of masturbation tend to place it firmly in the framework of optimistic, hygienic narratives of all-too-normative individual development. When Jane E. Brody, in a recent “Personal Health” column in the New York Times, reassures her readers that, according to experts, it is actually entirely possible for people to be healthy without masturbating; “that the practice is not essential to normal development and that no one who thinks it is wrong or sinful should feel he or she must try it”; and that even “’those who have not masturbated … can have perfectly normal sex lives as adults,’” the all but perfectly normal Victorianist may be forgiven for feeling just a little — out of breath.3

      “In this altered context, the self-evidence of a polemical link between autoeroticism and narratives of wholesale degeneracy4 draws on a very widely discredited body of psychiatric and eugenic expertise whose only direct historical continuity with late twentieth-century thought has been routed straight through the rhetoric and practice of fascism. But it now draws on this body of expertise under the more acceptable gloss of the modern, trivializing, hygienic-developmental discourse, according to which autoeroticism not only is funny — any sexuality of any power is likely to hover near the threshold of hilarity — but also must be relegated to the inarticulable space of infantility.”

      3. Jane E. Brody, “Personal Health,” New York Times, 4 Nov. 1987.
      4. Rosenblatt, “The Universities,” p. 3.

      Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick is professor of English at Duke University and the author of Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire and Epistemology of the Closet.

  2. Larry,

    The reference to the piece came from ‘Tenured Radicals’, which you referred everyone to, and when read it struck me as astonishing that anyone could actually be paid to write this stuff. Well, turns out there is a flood of such stuff, if you look for it.

    I had never taken post modernism seriously, but it has had very serious consequences.

    Q D Leavis is maybe a more important reference as reader of Jane Austen. Do look for it. QD was a brilliant critic, with wide sympathies and great penetration. In many ways a far better critic than her better known husband. Every one of her essays is worth reading. There are three volumes so far out.

  3. It is clear that the professor is insane. What is also clear is taht the system which both hired her, and has not booted her is one of two things, one bad, the other terrifying

    1. broken
    2. working

    If it is simply broken, than that is very, very bad. Because a broken institution is not fixable in the same way that a broken bridge is fixable. It can be done, but it must be done with the same ruthless and objective determination that a team of engineers brings to fixing a broken bridge. And given that the university system is the only place from which we can find cultural engineers in the first place… well…

    If it is working, then that is not just bad, it is terrifying. Because that means that giving credentials and a platform to sociopaths like the feminist professor to say dehumanizing filth is exactly what she is meant to be doing.

    Let us be clear, what she is proposing is not “fairness” but dehumanization. It is the equivalent of men going up to a white man and telling him that his oxygen intake is a form of violence. Which btw, is exactly where this is going.

    The solution, the only real solution to both problems is simple. Drain the money. No more federal money, no more tax exempt status, no more bankruptcy protection over student loans. No more party. Make them fight for every penny just like everyone else.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      (1) “It is clear that the professor is insane.”

      I think that’s a bit harsh. Rather I think we are the crazy people, paying vast fortunes to have such people teach our children. (Side note: I live near Berkeley, so speak from first hand experience.)

      (2) “What is also clear is that the system which both hired her, and has not booted her is one of two things, one bad, the other terrifying.”

      That nails it. Colleges are a vital institution in American, and they’re broken. People have been saying this for a long time, but now the effects have grown too large to ignore. What comes next will show if we are citizens or proles in America. It’s our choice.

      (3) “The solution, the only real solution to both problems is simple. Drain the money.”

      Wow. Do you recommend treating a brain tumor by removing the brain? We need to fix the universities, not destroy them. There are ample mechanisms to do so without taking an axe to them.

  4. Another instance of the same thing was Terry Castle’s piece in the London Review of Books. The reference is:

    Vol. 17 No. 15 · 3 August 1995, pages 3-6 “Sister-Sister”

    This suggests, in what starts out as a review of another edition of Austen’s letters, that Jane had a lesbian relationship with her sister Cassandra.

    Its completely irrelevant of course to understanding or evaluating the novels. But worse, one of the key bits of ‘evidence’ cited in the piece is that they supposedly slept in the same bed. Now if they did, at that period, it would not have been in any way remarkable. But in fact, as a letter rebutting the article points out, there is zero evidence that they ever did.

    We have in this a classic instance of a similar idiocy to the idiocy in Kosovsky. Kosovsky thinks you can approach characters in novels just as you would approach real people, living or dead. You can ask the same questions about them, they have backgrounds, hidden and revealed actions. Just as you can ask whether a couple of well known tennis players were an item, so you can ask whether the sisters in Sense and Sensibility were an item. Or as another critic whose reference escape me did, you can equally ask whether Mr Woodehouse had syphilis in the same way you can ask whether Boswell had it.

    This was Bradleyan ‘character and plot’ analysis gone mad. Of course you cannot and should not be approaching novels like this. If you do, you have no idea how to read.

    But the Terry Castle piece now goes further. It assumes the relevance of details of personal life of the novelist to the novels. We have now gone back before Bradley to Sainte-Beuve. But worse, with the aid of post modernism, we now feel entitled to make up biographical details out of whole cloth. We then use these invented details to justify our fantastic readings of the novels. Its like we should make up some detail of the life of Fielding, and then use this invented detail to explain why ‘Tom Jones’ is in fact a gay epic, relying on projecting our fantasies into some of the key scenes.

    To give readers an idea of the insanities which the method results in, in the hands of Kosovsky, look at her treatment of the following passage. Her handling will be found on page 113 of ‘Tendencies’. This is the passage from Sense and Sensibility:

    “Before the house-maid had lit their fire the next day, or the sun gained
    any power over a cold, gloomy morning in January, Marianne, only
    half-dressed, was kneeling against one of the window-seats for the
    sake of all the little light she could command from it, and writing as
    fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her. In this situation,
    Elinor, roused from sleep by her agitation and sobs, first perceived
    her; and after observing her for a few moments with silent anxiety,
    said, in a tone of the most considerate gentleness,
    “Marianne, may I ask?—”
    “No, Elinor,” she replied, “ask nothing; you will soon know all.”
    The sort of desperate calmness with which this was said, lasted no
    longer than while she spoke, and was immediately followed by a
    return of the same excessive affliction. It was some minutes before
    she could go on with her letter, and the frequent bursts of grief which
    still obliged her, at intervals, to withhold her pen, were proofs enough
    of her feeling how more than probable it was that she was writing for
    the last time to Willoughby.”

    And this is what Kosovsky makes of it:

    “We know well enough who is in this bedroom: two women. They are Elinor
    and Marianne Dashwood, they are sisters, and the passion and
    perturbation of their love for each other is, at the very least, the backbone
    of this powerful novel. But who is in this bedroom scene? And, to put it
    vulgarly, what’s their scene? It is the naming of a man, the absent
    Willoughby, that both marks this as an unmistakably sexual scene, and by
    the same gesture seems to displace its “sexuality” from the depicted
    bedroom space of same-sex tenderness, secrecy, longing, and frustration.
    Is this, then, a hetero- or a homoerotic novel (or moment in a novel)? No
    doubt it must be said to be both, if love is vectored toward an object and
    Elinor’s here flies toward Marianne, Marianne’s in turn toward
    Willoughby. But what, if love is defined only by its gender of object-choice,
    are we to make of Marianne’s terrible isolation in this scene; of her
    unstanchable emission, convulsive and intransitive; and of the writing
    activity with which it wrenchingly alternates?”

    No-one who knows how to read could possibly get this out of it. Its not that this is not what Jane Austen intended, its that this is not what this passage is about in this novel.

    These people are so sexually obsessed, and so obsessed with gay sex in particular, that they see it everywhere they look, and whatever they look at. Its like a sort of distorting film over their eyes, which prevents them seeing the simple reality in front of them.

    To understand what Sense and Sensibility is about, start by reading the title. It contrasts two approaches to social life and the life of the passions. One approach is restrained, calm, rational. It takes an approach to the feelings which had been current in England for the previous 100 years, and which you find in Elizabeth’s conversations with her sister when she is disappointed in love. This is, we can and must feel rightly. We know what right feeling is, our feelings are under our own control if we exert ourselves, and we can and must do that. We must not ‘give way’, though when we feel rightly, we should indeed be expressive and permit ourselves to expand. The key moment in proposals in Jane Austen is when the proposer meets or fails to meet this standard of openness and sincerity which he has properly allowed to replace the polite restraint that was previously appropriate.

    The other point of view, essentially Romanticism, embodied by Marianne, is that one must follow one’s feelings whatever they are, and that life is feeling to the full. The denial of this is a sort of deadening of the self.

    The novel works out the effects of the two approaches in the society of the day, in the lives of the two sisters, and allows us to see both sides and come to a conclusion. The method by which this is worked out and expressed was invented by the author for the task. That she needed it is as extraordinary an achievment as that she was in fact able to find and implement it.

    In the real world, the true successors of Marianne were Hart Crane and Sylvia Plath. Destroyed lives. But that is another story

    1. Sorry, when I said Elizabeth’s conversations with her sister, I left out that I meant in Pride and Prejudice, when Bingley has disappointed Jane.

  5. I cannot help but notice that neither of the two mentioned academics are English and are presumably thus without geographical (never mind historical) understanding. I (given what I will now write) have to say that I am not unfamiliar with the former home of Miss Austen’s uncle (with whom she would stay) but when a scholar was always taught by my (F.R.) Leavis trained teacher of literature and of Miss Austen that one should and could not ever go outside the text.

    I detested the set work of Miss Austen and a close and adult re-reading of it recently (Norton edition) has not encouraged me to change my youthful view – Miss Austen simply cannot write men and her hero (in my case Capt. Wentworth) is a cardboard cut-out – the equivalent of a billionaire who for some inexplicable reason wishes to marry a spinster devoid of any redeemable looks or personality. Reminds me much of 50 Shades (of which I have read the first chapter – twice).

    This comment may be a little off topic but Miss Austen always gets my goat and forcing adolescent boys to read her is in my view a form of adolescent abuse.

    1. Teenage boys should not be made to read Persuasion, agreed.

      The novel is not about Captain Wentworth. It is about persuasion, how it works out, how it is and should be used. It does not require Captain Wentworth to be presented in any more detail or more from within than he is, for the character to play the necessary role in the novel.

      It is not the story of Anne and Wentworth either.

      The question the novel is addressing is to what extent we should influence and allow ourselves to be influenced in key decisions in life by our feelings and inclinations when they conflict with the advice of those who are close to us and whose views we respect, and who we assume to be giving their view of our best interests. It is showing us the consequences of taking different views of this matter in a well realized social context. The realization of the social context does not require Austen to ‘do men’.

      Persuasion is perhaps the weakest of the novels. Mansfield Park is the most uneven. But in all of the work of her maturity you see a real maker. She first arrived at a problem: the problem of how to do this kind of thing. This kind of thing was somehow to work out how to present all sides of a choice or question. To have this problem at all meant an approach to writing of novels which was a radical innovation, and that is why I said above that it was an achievment in itself merely to have had the problem. This would never have come up if the only objective was to write a love story or indeed to just write any sort of narrative. They are not narratives, this is the point.

      So this was the first step, and why the realization of the nature of the problem was a great achievement. Then she worked out, through constant rewrites, the technique of the omniscient narrator and what I have called the double vision: when the description says one thing, and the implications of the description as expressed suggest a quite different view, and the author holds both in view in the work or passage at the same time.

      Finally through the process of revision and rewriting, the use of this technique became automatic, so that it was simply part of the means of expression. And this is what we find in the opening para of Pride and Prejudice (which is also not about Elizabeth and Darcy, but is actually about pride and prejudice, and their working out, in the time of love and money).

      She is in fact a stylist, a writer on a technical level fully the equal of Flaubert, with a much narrower perspective, treating of much smaller elements of experience, but approaching them with a moral curiousity which Flaubert lacks. You read Flaubert to find out how to get certain effects. You read Austen because of her insight into human nature and morality. The range of effects in Flaubert is extraordinary, the mastery breathtaking. But where is the insight?

      The technique in Jane Austen is so blended with the effect that its easy to miss it totally if you are not looking and aware that it will be there. You will never find in her the kind of passages in Flaubert which simply take the breath away with their mastery – the cattle market scene in Bovary, for instance, or the final page of that book with the death scene, which continually prompt you, after an intake of breath, to say, ‘my Goodness, how did he do that?’ And there are so many of them, page after page. Instead you find yourself thinking, yes, stopping, and thinking about life. And not ever wondering how it was done.

      Sanditon is a rough first draft, unfinished. It hints at what the next stage of her development would have been, and its a tragedy we lost it.

    2. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Jane Austen is the mother of the massive genre of chick lit. Every Harlequin romance book should pay her estate royalties!

      But her books remain current, unlike the quickly forgotten Harlequins (and their bodice-buster cousins) because they tap deeper insights. I suggest reading the chapter about Pride and Prejudice in Allen Bloom’s great book, Love and Friendship.

      You’ll see her work differently afterwards.

  6. The University of North Carolina – has over 4800 “professors” in its educational system.

    America, has over 1.3 million of these astute baccalaureates, whom like big city councils and mayors, have too much time on their hands, which allows for social justice enterprise and
    radical agendas.

    Time has come to eliminate Federale aid to academic institutions, to deter brain wasting disease. Stop the pandemic academic, which is producing too many debt ridden students, while enriching this industry and this class of elitists.

    1. Purse and Persuasion is my literary blind-spot, obviously, and despite Simon’s articulate apology (in the older sense of the word) for it, I find it difficult to share Miss Austen’s obvious sympathies and equally obvious disapprobation as to her various characters. Scott thought highly of her and as his judgement is always so right I will leave it there, save for this: by reference to the 2007 movie, which I watched as I was re-reading and which to my mind gets so right the three instances of physical action. Firstly, Wentworth’s removal of the children from Anne Elliott’s back, then his placing her on the back of the cart (improving greatly on Austen’s original) and the dropping of Louise Musgrove at Lyme’s Cobb. Surely the second at least of these is a #Metoo moment as she never consented.

      Interesting is it not that the rise in cinematic* Austen takes off with the flourishing of Feminism from about 1990 and further that it is Austen rather than say Maria Edgeworth or Ann Radcliffe who so enthuse the female of the species; that the idyllic and inactive lives led by the heroines of Miss Austen are what so appeal to women who presumably will claim that such women were oppressed.

      Now we have to endure Miss Austen every time we hand over a Ten Pound note (sterling) – happily the elderly lady on the reverse has yet to turn her hand to the writing of three-volume-novels.

      * It surprises me somewhat that (to the best of my knowledge) no composer not even a female composer has yet seen fit to turn to Miss Austen for the subject for an operatic libretto.


      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        Tastes vary in such things, of course. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice but found Austen’s other books unreadable. However, I enjoyed the films Sense and Sensibility (1995, with Emma Thompson) and Emma 1996, with Gwyneth Paltrow). Both films nicely adapted the novels for modern tastes, making them more in the style of the more lively Pride and Prejudice.

        “Austen takes off with the flourishing of Feminism from about 1990”

        That’s an interesting observation, well worth some thought!

  7. Commenting very late on this one. But the point of Jane Austen is in the prose. You cannot get it from a film version, which is not actually a version. The feminists cited above evidently do not know how to read. This is not what Pride and Prejudice is about. It is the classic English style of the double vision, the writing always has an undercurrent, it faces both ways, it leads you to a judgment which is the result of seeing the thing in the round.

    It is prose. It is like a poem. It is not telling a story. It is not about Elizabeth and Darcy.

    For real insight into Austen, read QD Leavis’ three part series, origiinally published in Scrutiny, but reprinted in her collected essays.

    For real iinsight into Pride and Prejudice, read the first paragraph and the first chapter over and over again, asking yourself why she picked exactly these words. Why does she say ‘rightful property of some one or other’? Think about what the implications of those words are, all of them. And why does she go on to depict the relations between the parents in the way she does? And who has the better of the exchanges?

    You have to read Austen bearing in mind the method of composition, which was to write and rewrite, and to of necessity spend more time working out in her mind than in setting down the results on paper. As a result, she invented a method, and is the equal on a smaller scale of Flaubert, in the use of that method and her invented technique. But like our other great prose writers, and Conrad in the opening of the Secret Sharer springs to mind, her technique had become so worked out and internalized that it vanishes and simply becomes the precise expression of a thought or intention. And unlike Flaubert, it was an expression of a morally insightful view of men, women and society.

    Read Mansfield Park, probably the most interesting, and the clue to where she would have evolved had she lived. And find the passage where they come to a fence, and the woman shakes it, and says that she wants to get out. That is technique with a moral purpose, and her astonishing achievement was to have invented it from scratch, out of the necessity of finding a way to express what she wanted to express.

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