essays from Persuasions #31 (the JASNA periodical)

TitlePersuasions, No. 31 (2009)
Author: various authors
Genre: essays (non-fiction)
ISBN: none
Length: 66 pages
Year Published: 2009
Source: personal collection
Rating: not giving one
Reason for Reading: I gave up all things Jane Austen in 2010, so this was a way to get back into stuff about her (and I’m still going to try to limit how often I reread JA)
Challenges/Resolutions: while this technically counts towards my Non-Fiction Resolution, I’m not counting it towards that because it was just so short 🙂

Essays I Read & My Thoughts on Each:

  • Lady Susan, Individualism, and the (Dys)functional Family by William Galperin
    Much of this essay was above my comprehension level. Not sure how that happened, as I’m perfectly used to reading scholarly articles and the like because of my four years of university. But, nevertheless, there was a lot of language and syntax I just didn’t get. But there were some interesting points in this essay. It didn’t help that I read Lady Susan only once and that was a few years ago, so I forgot most of it. Okay, so interesting points include: the families in Austen’s novels differ greatly from her own family; the better-off a heroine or secondary character in the novels was, the less concerned with marriage she was (such as Mary Crawford and Emma Woodhouse); and companionate marriages actually hurt some women in reality because they married for love and didn’t necessarily pay attention to how a husband would provide for them.
  • Sisterly Chat by John Mullan
    If you couldn’t tell, this one was about the relationships between sisters in Austen’s novels. Of course, having three sisters myself, I really liked this essay. A major point that is made in this essay is that if the sisters share a bedroom (or even a bed), they are much closer to each other than sisters who have separate quarters. Lizzie and Jane, Marianne and Elinor–they’re certainly close and even most often each other’s confidantes (or BFFs 😀 ). The Bertram sisters in Mansfield Park have separate rooms, and it is easy to see how they aren’t as close to each other. But I do think that this idea of sharing a bedroom makes sisters closer may not always apply. I mean, imagine if, for some reason, Lizzie and Lydia Bennet shared a room–I doubt they would have been BFFs if they shared a room. Both would’ve gone crazy I think 🙂 And, from personal experience, a common bedroom isn’t necessary for sisters to decide who is their favorite..
  • “Rivalry, Treachery between sisters!” Tensions between Brothers and Sisters in Austen’s Novels by Jan Fergus
    This one was pretty funny. Of course sisters may fight for men, especially if they knew they wouldn’t have their own fortunes later in life. But, sisters should be nice to their brothers on the off chance that they didn’t marry and needed support after their father died. And the author brought up a good point. Only the minor sibling rivalries were central to the stories. Serious sibling rivalries, such as the Bertram sisters fighting over Henry Crawford, played a smaller, in-the-background role to the story.
  • “If you don’t marry my sister you will mortally offend me”: Sibling Matchmakers by Juliet McMaster
    Why is it so many of Austen’s characters take active roles in marrying off their siblings? And, if not active, they are passively invested in and concerned about the marriages of siblings. But I love one of the points that McMaster brings up in her essay–the lack of social opportunities for opposite sexes to meet and mingle made it important for siblings to have friends visit to match them up 🙂 And brothers had a responsibility to help their sisters–that way the sisters wouldn’t go unmarried and become a “burden” on the brother(s). Women have, for some reason, always seemed to take on the matchmaking role. And, of course, McMaster brought up the charming person who could switch from one sibling to another, such as Lucy Steel 🙂 Gotta love those ones!
  • Darcy and Emma: Austen’s Ironic Meditation on Gender by Leee Overmann
    How could I not have realized that Emma is a female Darcy (and vice versa)?! They are both: wealthy, proud, of no need to marry, primary caregivers to a person (Georgiana and Mr. Woodhouse), good at influencing friends, doing what they feel is good, and both fall in love with their harshest critic. But Emma acts more like a man than the stereotypical female of the time. I really enjoyed the look in this essay at who the two books are so alike, but just mirrors of each other.

Ending Thoughts: The essays were interesting, but I think I won’t be reading many more journals like this for fun 🙂 There was no problem with them, but I just like to find pleasure in Austen–I don’t read her books to analyze them very much. Of course I think about things when I read the books, but I don’t want to analyze them as much as the writers of these essays. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend the essays to anyone who isn’t a strong-hearted Janeite.


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