06 January 2007

Insert Clever Title Here

In keeping with my writerly goals, I've been working on a personal essay today. I thought some of you might be interested since I have some avid Jane Austen fanatics in my audience. So here's the first few paragraphs.

I always tell people that I am one of the few women who doesn’t swoon over Jane Austen. Her novels just never seemed to click for me, I’d say, tiny dramas of men and women, carrying on their meaningless lives of dancing and gossip. I hear my female relatives debating the relative merits of Pride and Prejudice versus Sense and Sensibility and expressing their disappointment with Emma, and something inside me just shuts off. When the other girls in our young women’s group would giggle over Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, I would roll my eyes and pretend to be somewhere else. I make it a point to avoid seeing all the movie adaptations or memorizing all of the couples therein.

And yet when I do pick up one of her novels, I find my disdain is a lie. Not to say, of course, that Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors ever. Her novels lack many elements of my ideal story—long philosophical conversations, huge internal monologues, a driving adventure of discovery, that pivotal moment of epiphanic truth—but when I look at her writings for what they are, I can see that they are good in their own way. They serve their purpose, one crucial to their time period, and they do it with a little flair and humor. I even find myself occasionally empathizing with her characters. Overall, they certainly aren’t the worst things I’ve ever read. As I look out on the prospect of rereading Pride and Prejudice for a class this semester, I even find myself feeling a little nostalgia for the story, though I’ve only read it once.

Do you want to know the truth? Jane Austen terrifies me.

I am afraid of Jane Austen, probably most specifically of Pride and Prejudice, but also of her and of all she represents. Jane Austen is the classic novelist of femininity. Two women who have never met before can instantly strike up a kinship as they reminisce over their first exposure to the original goddess of chic lit and debate over whether Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen makes the better Darcy. It is an oblique sisterhood shared in those Victorian pages, where one only has to mention that a potential suitor is such a Mr. Collins to be instantly understood and sympathized with. It is giggles, sleepovers, girl talk, drama, makeovers. It is a world I strove to shut myself out of, or rather shut out of myself. Admitting I feel any connection to what Austen writes sends my sense of identity trembling into a corner.
What do you think? Interested? It gets more rough and more personal after that, but I think I like it thus far.

Anyway, I'm really excited for this semester. Both of my English classes, as well as the Hugh Nibley class, appear to be fairly student-led, which is great. I'm excited to get to explore my own ideas. Prof. Bennion, the one in charge of my Study Abroad, has been sending us all sorts of stuff about the importance of story and its connection to life to prepare for our English Novel class this semester, and it's exactly the sort of thing I want to write about. I'm totally stoked! Yay!


PinkyLunt said...

I know this has nothing really to do with this post but...




The Girl in the Other Room said...

Aw sister, you mentioned me, if not by name. I like it. It deffinitely is you and I am glad you are finally admitting that she terrifies you because honestly, she terrifies em a bit but for totaly different reasons. If you ever want a nice gothic novel, go read Northanger Abbey. Totally gothic. Lol.