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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jane Austen & Sex: REDUX

As some of you also surely noticed, there have been not one but two columns published in the online version of The Independent this week pertaining to the new sexploitation line of adaptations of Austen, Bronte, Conan Doyle & other classic novels under the name "Clandestine Classics":

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/oh-mr-darcy-pride-and-prejudice-among-classic-novels-to-receive-erotic-makeover-7946364.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/howard-jacobson/howard-jacobson-if-you-think-theres-no-sex-in-jane-austen-youre-wrong-about-love-sex-and-austen-7962380.html


The latter column was written by Harold Jacobson, recent winner of the Booker Prize, and a man with the audacity (although some might uncharitably call it chutzpah) to refer to himself as "the Jewish Jane Austen":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Jacobson


Here is my reply to two of Mr. Jacobson's comments:


Jacobson: "There are few scenes in literature which are at one and the same time so painful and so thrilling, so precarious and, yes, all right, so arousing, as those in Persuasion in which Captain Wentworth lays hands on Anne Elliot for the first time since their estrangement. In one, he relieves her of the burden of a troublesome child, pulling him off her back, unplucking his hands from around her neck – a tactual performance of consideration that leaves her "perfectly speechless", at the mercy of the "most disordered feelings"; in another, seeing that she is tired, he assists her, again wordlessly, into a carriage. If submission to a man's will is your bag, then here it is – "Yes – he had done it. She was in the carriage and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it." END QUOTE

My only quibble with the above is that Howard Jacobson did not acknowledge that David Lodge, in his 1975 novel Changing Places, has his protagonist Professor Morris Zapp quote that same exact passage from Persuasion to a classful of students, and then finish with the comment: "If that isn't an orgasm, what is it?" Sounds like Lodge was (famously) there first.


JACOBSON: "Among the reasons for Jane Austen's extraordinary popularity with readers of all types is the heat her lovers generate, the unbearable frustrations they suffer when misunderstandings keep them apart, the rhapsodies of happiness they experience when all barriers to their felicity are removed. And if you say, "Ah, yes, but that's just love without the sex," then you are wrong on every count: wrong about the nature of love, wrong about the nature of sex, and wrong about Jane Austen, who knew as well as anybody the havoc desire wreaks on our affections, our loyalties and our intelligences."

And with that comment I am in entire agreement, as illustrated by the following sample of posts from my blog during the past few years:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/01/jane-austen-sex.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/11/jane-austens-great-chasms-and-dirty.html

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2009/08/rears-and-vices-redux.html

and...particularly relevant to the passage quoted by Lodge (and then, 35 years later) Jacobson:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/05/dear-old-aspgo-to-bottom-together.html

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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