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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jane Austen's matrix

"Arnie - the puns in these passages are thickly layered upon each other. If you refer to an annotated edition of the plays, you will find themultilayered meaning and contemporary references that the modern reader couldn't possibly be familiar with: e.g., just the word "toast" "

There needs no annotator, my dear Mrs. Schiff, come from the university, to tell us that "toast" refers to drinking--although you did not say it explicitly, I believe you are confirming that there IS resonance between Mr. Allen and Falstaff in regard to their drinking. ;)

"Still, it seems that the contemporary horrid novels - both English and French - had more influence on Northanger Abbey."

Well, I think you're right and you're wrong. Nothing I have been saying about Shakespeare (or Chaucer, as to whom you are probably reading my message now) as allusive sources for NA in any way is meant to suggest that the contemporary horrid novels of JA's day were not crucial for understanding the subtext of the novel.

What you don't realize is that 90% of those late 18th century horrid novels--including most of all Udolpho, Otranto,--but also Tom Jones, Richardson's novels, and Sheridan's plays--are themselves DRENCHED in Hamlet! In particular, Radcliffe had more epigraphs taken from Shakespeare in general, and Hamlet in particular, than.....we have had Presidents of the United States!

What you are missing is that JA's art of allusive memory was not linear, it was a MATRIX of thematically related sources. The allusion to Hamlet in NA is inextricably bound up with the allusions in NA to a half dozen other, later literary sources, and several historical sources as well.

It's a beautiful thing.

Cheers, ARNIE

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