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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jane Austen Rotten Author or Miraculously Great Author

Someone in the Janeites group just asserted that if the kinds of subliminal shadowy ironies I claim to exist everywhere in Jane Austen's novels have only been seen to date by me and the small number of Janeites I have so far convinced, then Jane Austen must have been a rotten author, in failing to reach most of her readers.

Here is how i replied:

One huge difference between your approach to literature, and
mine, could not have been more clearly delineated. Seeing the veiled
ironies I have pointed out in iJA's novels--the latest pertaining to
Mary Crawford and Mrs. Grant in my two previous messages today--is not a
question, in my view, of understanding--I claim that the vast majority
of JA's veiled ironies are hiding in plain sight, and, once glimpsed by
taking an offcenter perspective, they are remarkably straightforward and
EASY to describe--they are, in fact, exactly like the UNveiled ironies
of JA's novels--the only difference, I claim, is that JA has chosen to
make half of her ironies clearly visible, and half of them subliminal.

So that's why I never claim to have some special power of
understanding--I only claim that I have developed to a high level my own
sensitivity to the ways in which JA veiled her ironies--by means of
puns, apparent coincidences, and another dozens or so of other clever
techniques which she repeated over and over again. I've made that my
central passion and work, and it has led me to many wonderful discoveries.

My goal in my book is to empower any Janeite reader so inclined to
become familiar with those techniques, and also with the powerful
reasons why JA, in her era, had to be careful about being too open in
delivering the radical part of her message. At that point, any Janeite
reader who so chooses can have the same pleasure I have had in detecting
and explicating these ironies.

You are free to read JA your way, but to Janeites like myself, what I
have just described is one of the most profound ways in which JA is a
miraculously GOOD author, because it means that there are TWO levels on
which one can reread JAs' novels endlessly and always find something
new. And what is particularly wonderful about the veiled ironies is that
seeing them allows the reader to compare the meanings of the same
passages in two different parallel fictional universes, and to gain a
fresh perspective on BOTH as a result. But I freely acknowledge that it
is not necessary to read on that parallel, second shadow level in order
to derive endlessl pleasure and benefit from reading JA. That is what
has been done by millions of Janeites for centuries, and will, I am
sure, continue to be done that way by many Janeites. I offer a second
approach for those so inclined, one which I believe JA took
extraordinary pains to embed in all her novels.

And I claim that JA was, ventriloquistically and in her typically veiled
way, predicting this chasm in the modern Janeite world, when she has
Emma say that "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of
the other."


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