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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Paradoxes of Jane Austen

Christy Somer responded to my previous post about Jane Austen's Letter 5, and I responded to her response as follows:

[Christy] "Now I wonder if Cassandra did not purposefully pick letters out by their connections to the books. I think every letter so far, has bits we have seen in her stories."

Or maybe _all_ her letters had these connections, because JA loved to seed her letters with covert references to her fictions in process? That's a equally possible scenario.

[Christy] "Yes, Arnie, this did feel like a caricature of some predatory nature scene....the lions having their fill, and the lesser predators being left the scraps."

Thanks for that acknowledgment, Christy---it seems very clear to me, because the imagery is so incongruous, so hyperbolic, so loaded. I never saw it before only because I never read Letter 5 really closely before.

What I find most noteworthy is that I am (as far as I can tell online) the _first_ person to spot that connection and make that claim in print!

As usual, I do _not_ claim that this indicates that I had to have some sort of extraordinary perspicuity in order to see this, not at all. Rather I claim it indicates that JA's letters have _never_ received the close reading they deserve, because it never dawned on most readers thereof that these letters were actually highly composed, for all their apparent randomness and triviality. There should have been a dozen biographers taking note of the telltale connection-by-proximity between the jibe at brother Edward, and the jungle caricature in words, if only to speculate on it as a possibility.

I have seen this same exact thing a thousand times during the past 6 years.

[Christy] "She does seem to have loved paradox...wherever she could find or construct it."

And thanks for that as well. I think it was her inner philosopher, always seeking a moment to express her delight in the great questions of human existence and experience, especially epistemology---how we know what we know.

It is no surprise that the young philosopher who coined these paradoxes was also the creator of the young philosopher _of exactly the same age_ who opined:

"We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing."

Cheers, ARNIE

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