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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mrs. Weston's Pregnancy PART FOUR

Apparently my previous two posts struck a couple of sensitive nerves, because first Kathy, responded thusly, once more completely ducking my challenges to the plausibility of Mr. Knightley's and Emma's debriefing of Mr. Elton's asking Mrs. Weston to dance at the Crown Inn ball:

[Kathy Elder] "I am not being discreet, nor am I avoiding giving full answer. My only answer
is that I don't believe that your questions can be answered nor are they pertinent to my study of this particular novel. I see no reason to manufacture answers out of thin air merely because you choose to direct questions toward me.

For me, the question of when Mrs Weston told people she was pregnant is no more important nor any more answerable than the questions of how old Emma was, exactly, when her mother died, or whether Miss Taylor was Isabella's first governess, or to what kindness of Mr Woodhouse Mrs Goddard formerly owed so much, etc. These are questions that I occasionally find interesting, and I enjoy speculating about them (though I know they cannot be answered with any certainty and neither are they relevant to my reading of the novel as written).

Your questions re Mrs Weston's pregnancy also cannot be answered with any certainty. In addition, I find them uninteresting (as well as irrelevant to my understanding of the novel), and I have no desire to speculate on this matter. I know that you enjoy such fan-fic style speculation, however, and I would never suggest that you should not do so to your heart's content -- but I shan't participate.

Thanks, and now I have done."

A modern day politician could learn much from Kathy's "protesting too much" about how unimportant these interpretive questions I raised supposedly are, but I leave to you all to decide if they really are unimportant.

And then, it seems my post about the epistemological aspects of this thread struck a raw nerve in Christy Somer, who responded with a very elevated tone:

[Christy Somer] "And, is the totality of these yoga-inspired imaginings suppose to intimate:

First, that we are all unwise if we do not consider Jane Austen, as being this radically feminist epistemologist?

Second, that we are all unwise if we do not consider that she may very well have treated her novels as some kind of new bible or manifesto on the nature of knowledge, the manner in which it was acquired, and how one might come to know and be sure of what one knew?

Thirdly, that we are all unwise if we do not consider that this omnipresence within her writings might possibly be on the level of a guru, zen monk, or a Kant, Locke, Smith, Hume, etc.?

All I can say to all of this is......"what a fearsome thing to behold!" and to ascribe to this Hampshire authoress....."

To which I now respond as follows:

Christy, I won't repeat what I wrote in my previous message, which I _carefully_ limited so as only to make the claim that Jane Austen was challenging her readers's assumptions about what her novels mean, on all levels of understanding. I invite anyone who wishes to read what I actually wrote, and then to compare it to your characterizations of it, and decide whether you have been fair and accurate.

I was careful _not_ to include in my message anything that would favor my own personal view of Jane Austen as the author of radical feminist shadow stories, in fact I made the explicit point that the questioning of assumptions applies just as much to readings like mine as it does to readings like yours, and, indeed, to _all_ readings of her fiction.

So it is very interesting that _you_ are the one, not I, to raise all those other points, in response to my carefully limited message.

I will also point out that my claim that Jane Austen was extremely interested in epistemology is one that finds _wide_ support among a large number of Janeites, both academics and amateurs like myself, and, similarly, my claim that Jane Austen was a feminist also finds _wide_ support among a similar base of Janeites. Surely you do not wish to censor discussion of such topics, pro and con, in these groups.

As for shadow stories-----in my recent conversation with Kathy and others about Mrs. Weston's pregnancy--which I intend to continue exactly as long as she and anyone else in the group wishes to pursue it, no more and no less---I was equally careful _not_ to push my interpretation of the shadow story of _Emma_ into it, but instead I engaged in good faith with Kathy about _her_ interpretation of what I call the _revealed_ story of the novel, in regard to Mrs. Weston's pregnancy. I analyzed her interpretation, and I responded to what I claim are flaws and weaknesses in her argument, on _her_ terms, _not_ on shadow story terms. And, as can be noted in my message, I also did this in a polite, careful and good natured way. And I expressed appreciation for the civil responses I have received even from those who radically disagree with me.

And finally I will also point out that I was not the one to raise the question of Maria Bertram's alleged pregnancy, it was Diane. When others joined in, I did too. I only ask for the right to participate in the same conversations others do, and when I wish to express something about the shadow stories in my blog, I will continue my practice of merely posting a link to my blog in Janeites, as I have done on a number of occasions in the past few months, and I will make a case by case decision in that regard re Austen L as to whether to post shadow story material there, or by link to my blog.

And that, i believe, is a very careful, polite, and fair response to your post.

And....that is also the end of this four-part thread, unless the subject comes up again.

I am very grateful to Kathy in particular for prompting me to delve more deeply into the fishiness of Mr. Knightley's and Emma's debriefing of the Crown Inn fracas with Mr. Elton, Harriet and Mrs. Weston. It is only by this sort of extremely close reading, first raising the question of what Knightley and Emma knew about Mrs. Weston's pregnancy, and then testing same against their actual verbal behavior, to see if it matches.

It was extremely edifying to turn to tables on those who claim my interpretations are implausible and manufactured out of my own fevered imagination, and to expose their inadequate and superficial analysis.

Cheers, ARNIE

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