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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Emma Donoghue's Passions between Women and Austen as a possibly lesbian spinster

Ellen Moody just wrote an interesting blog and Austen L post under the above title:

Nancy Mayer then responded in Austen L, and I further responded as follows:

[Nancy] "I can see Jane Austen as a Lesbian oriented spinster..."

Nancy, call all the newspapers, because you, Ellen, and I (and surely some others as well) all agree with Terry Castle on the plausibility of JA having had at least some lesbian orientation.

What is for certain is that JA had an extraordinarily close and _frank_ relationship with Martha Lloyd---and of course I do intend the pun on "Frank", given that Martha married JA's brother Frank after JA died, when Martha was long past child bearing years, and which could very well have been a marriage of friends rather than lovers.

That frankness between Jane and Martha included rather broad sexual humor of the Mary Crawford variety, as illustrated in the following post by me of a few months back:

So it would not at all surprise me to learn that JA and Martha had a physically sexual lesbian relationship at some point(s) during their long friendship. But...even if it never progressed beyond the Platonic, it was still very very intense and long lasting.

[Nancy] "...more than I can see her as having Aspergers..."

I don't buy that one at all, either. JA had an extraordinarily acute radar for, and intuitive grasp of, human emotion and psychology, so why postulate a condition that is characterized by "significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests"? JA was the polar opposite of that description--she had enormously flexible patterns of behavior and interests, and subtle and adept abilities in social interaction. In regard to her grasp of the infinite variety and subtlety of human psychology, she was an equal of Shakespeare, i.e., both of them at the top of the pile among storytellers.

[Nancy] "...or being woman who is forever thinking about phalli. "

Nancy, I think you miss the point (so to speak) entirely as to all of JA's frequent puns on the male sexual organ. I don't think she was joking about it because she had an intense physical desire for men, I think she joked about phalli for exactly the same reason that a female stand-up comedian in today's world would joke about phalli--because it is such a fertile subject for subversive satirical humor---i.e., men thinking with their little head instead of their big one, and causing most of the trouble in the world. That sort of attitude. "Men and their ridiculous complexes and anxieties, and narcissisms about their penises".

Cheers, ARNIE

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