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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Radical Ostrichism" and Radical Ostracism of My Austenian Heresies

And the following quoted excerpts are from the wonderful response I received in Janeites from Christy Somer, who always disagrees with me so agreeably, to which I responded as follows, in particular thanking her for pointing out my own pun to me!:

"Thank you for not taking me to task over my pedestrian, parochial-'Christian' pov
around Jane Austen and her work."

Christy, I don't think your point of view is either pedestrian or parochial-I disagree with you strongly, of course, but you always argue your stance well, and I have learned much from your comments, even as I have disagreed with you on the ultimate meanings of JA's implications.

"Yes, I suppose this can be viewed as indulging in "Radical Ostrichism" -very clever Arnie!~~~~:-)"

And now I will confess that the pun on "ostracism" was TOTALLY unconscious on my own part, and I only saw it when you pointed it out! No wonder I liked it so much! Indeed it is a pun that is worthy of JA herself, if I dare say so, because it captures both the phobic avoidance of an obvious reality, PLUS there is the element of ostracizing or banishing the "heretical" idea to a galaxy far, far away, where it cannot taint conventional interpretations! ;)

And in all seriousness, that is a perfect example of what I call a "Trojan Horse Moment"--when a person subconsciously knows more than (s)he realizes consciously. That is the reason I believe JA wrote all these puns and echoes, so as to penetrate the defenses of her reader's mind, and to cause the reader to pop up with an idea which (s)he thinks is original, but has actually been "seeded" by JA's wordplay. On the same principle as subliminal images of Coke bottles in a Fifties drive-in.

I speculate that JA came up with many of her puns INITIALLY in a similar way, i.e., just bubbling up from her subconscious, as this pun did from mine. However, I also am convinced that she (perhaps assisted by her family with its well known love of communal wordplay) was very vigilant in identifying these puns when they were made conscious to her, and THEN, as a literary craftsman, she would go to work on a given pun (one I spoke about in Portland was the word "constitutional") by scattering it throughout her novels, embellishing it, integrating it with other puns and allusive echoes, until the finished product was a complex, beautful AND MOSTLY SUBLIMINAL web of meaning.

THAT is "the Jane Austen Code" in a nutshell.

"I just think that whatever 'subtexts' might have existed in JA's novels, her family would have known about them, as I simply do not experience and read Jane Austen as this 'lone-rider' genius-writer with an agenda."

I understand you feel that way, and still enjoy sharing the journey of discovery with you, because you keep barking up many of the same trees that I do. Vive la difference, I say!

"Have to say, I do continue to enjoy reading the conversations around all of this subtexting and controversial 'historicizing' -it is all very creative and educational. "

Yes, precisely, we feel the same way, even if we are each facing 180 degrees in terms of our ultimate interpretations.

"And since I have no doubt Jane Austen knew her maps and historical histories and sites very well, Janine Barchas lecture would have been very interesting to hear."

I am telling you, her book will be in the same category as Unbecoming Conjunctions and Jane Austen's Art of Memory--a landmark in Austen studies.

And again, I keep emphasizing, I don't know Barchas personally at all, I just love her approach to Austen studies, I see her as a kindred spirit of mine, even if she limits her interpretations to "roman a clef" readings, and does not go so far as the parallel shadow stories I have excavated in JA's novels. I see her and myself as working in parallel, toward the common goal of elucidating JA's shadows. And it is gratifying to know that even Janeites such as yourself who disagree so strongly with my ultimate interpretation of JA can find value in what I do, and she does.

Cheers, ARNIE

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