During the past month, I have had some fascinating exchanges offlist with a variety of very bright Janeites in regard to my post.....
.... about Jane Austen's virtuosic wordplay around the word "unconscious" in regard to Lizzy's thoughts and feelings vis a vis Darcy of course in P&P.
And, not surprisingly in discussions regarding Jane Austen, but particularly on a slippery topic like this, it seems like irony just sorta naturally pops up!
So, tonight, I leave you with my brief meditations on a _pair_ of fine i's (for "ironies") that I have observed during my exchanges about the above topic:
The first fine irony is that there are many Janeites of long standing who think that it's obvious from the plain meaning of the text that Lizzy is _not_ unconsciously attracted to Darcy, yet...there are many _other_ Janeites also of long standing who think that it's obvious from reading against the grain, as they believe the text begs for, that Lizzy _is_ unconsciously attracted to Darcy!
Whereas I am like Tevya in the great opening number of Fiddler on the Roof, "Tradition", in which he agrees with two neighbors who dispute the identity of an animal in a sale transaction, and then we hear:
Avram: He's right, and he's right? They can't both be right.
Tevye: You know...you are also right.
Avram is not correct in the dispute about P&P, because in the case of a Jane Austen novel, they _can_ both be right, because JA deliberately wrote the text of each of her novels to be ambiguous in a variety of important ways, such that _two_ entirely plausible alternative interpretations would be supported by insightful readings of the same novel text.
So that's Fine Irony #1.
The _second_ fine irony I have found is related, although it is not limited to the above dispute about P&P, but also applies, I find, a thousand times over, during every imaginable sort of Austen-related discussion. To wit: I have so often seen Janeites who would argue to the death that Jane Austen did _not_ covertly depict Freudian-style unconscious motivations and attractions in her novels, and yet, once
they are grudgingly convinced to accept an against-the-grain interpretation, their fallback position seems to be that Jane Austen _must_ have done it _UN_consciously! So they're Freudians about Jane Austen's creative process, while simultaneously denying Jane Austen the creativity and insight to have _consciously_ depicted Freudian-style _UN_conscious feelings in her characters.
And that is Fine Irony #2.
So there's my pair of fine ironies, and I for one also find it ironic that I derive pleasure from meditating on them. ;)
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- August Wayne Booth in Once Upon A Time: Jane Austen Really IS Everywhere in 2012!
- 20 shades of hero/villain Mr. Darcy