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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jane Austen's Coming of Age as an Author

Mari Webb just made the following very interesting comment about Jane Austen's coming of age as an author:

"At the same time, because writing grows out of life, another thought keeps sitting at the back of my mind and nagging at me. I can't help wondering if at least a part of the reason why Austen was a great novelist was precisely BECAUSE she learned to exercise her craft and express her ideas in the face of these limitations and difficulties? We see the same thing with Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë (also vicars' daughters!) and George Eliot, not to mention Woolf herself. Just my two cents worth in a most interesting discussion."

Here is my response:

You're grossly undervaluing your input, Mari, I think that insight was worth at least $100! ;)

My answer is as complicated as your comment--yes undoubtedly JA's pushback against those limitations not only helped her develop a certain inner discipline and toughness that a great writer needs, it also provided her with fuel for her creative fires, in that I see her radical feminism, her anger at the way women were abused in her world, as the central thematic core of all her writing, fiction and nonfiction.

But....had she grown up in a world where women were not abused, and in which she personally had been given firstrate training in writing, I think she still would have found a way to develop that discipline and toughness, and she'd have found _other_ themes to fuel her creative fire. She was a creative tsunami waiting to happen, somehow, some way.

We got the JA we got, because she grew up in that particular world in that particular family--and her pain was our gain.


Cheers, ARNIE


P.S.: Look at Mozart as an interesting counterpoint. He was turned into a circus monkey from early childhood, with his genius on display for the whole world, but.....his father also gave him a spectacular musical education. In the end of the day, look what the world got! But had Mozart been given a more normal childhood and less intense musical education, I still think his genius would have erupted magnificently--but differently.

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