Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: clarrisa, feminism, feminist, first feminist author, jane austen, margaret dashwood, puritan interregnum literature, richardsonian villain, samuel richardson, search engine, sense & sensibility, universal themes
I have done this a few times before where I respond to the search engine terms that people have entered to bring them to Adventures in Reading. I love that WordPress offers this function because it allows me to engage more with what readers/searchers are after as well as an opportunity to pick my brain.
“richardsonian villain + sense and sensib”
My only experience with a “Richardsonian villain” is from the first half of Clarissa that I read. Ideally I picture a man in a black cape, with cane, tying unfortunate women to railway tracks. While perhaps that is not quite the most accurate depiction of Lovelace I do think it is quite descriptive in one manner: Lovelace is transparent and static, and there is no room for greater exploration of him as an evolving character. Like the black cloaked villain tying helpless female victims to railroad tracks in silent westerns, Lovelace is conniving and immoral. Richardson even goes so far to footnote Clarissa so the reader never for a moment thinks that Lovelace might have a shred of decency in his body.
As far as Sense & Sensibility… From everything I have read and enjoyed of Austen, she never employs this Richardsonian villain, because one important aspect of this villain type is that it is paired with the moral, docile, and angelic heroine (Clarissa in this case). Austen’s characters on the other hand are rife with faults and compliments. All of her heroes are faulty in some manner and all of her villains are forgivable in others. Additionally, these faults and compliments grow or diminish throughout the story.
“jane austin first feminist author”
No, Jane Austen was not the first feminist author. Granted, all that is coming into my mind at the moment is Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies (1405) though I am sure there are earlier “feminist authors.” I do realize I have no idea how this searcher was defining feminism or specifically feminist author, but I have not seen anything by Austen radical enough to be trump her feminist predecessors. Perhaps one could argue a few firsts with Austen as a female novelist or feminist tendencies in a particular vein of literary tradition, but certainly not the “first feminist author.”
“universal themes of Jane Austen”
Whenever people use the term universal in this sense I always struggle with it. I know what they mean but at the same time want to confront them on their definition. More often than not when I have seen universal thrown about what is really meant is popular themes in Judeo-Christian, Anglo-Saxon, bourgeois, and westernized culture. Keeping that in mind some of Austen’s universal themes would include: marriage, education, gender, class, social expectations, etc. Now these I have rooted down to words that are certainly much more universal, though Austen’s actual application of these terms is certainly not universal.
“puritan interregnum literature”
I had absolutely no idea what this meant and had to look it up: “However, the official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards effectively created a gap in literary tradition. At the time of the Civil War, poetry had been dominated by metaphysical poetry of the John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Lovelace sort. Drama had developed the late Elizabethan theatre traditions and had begun to mount increasingly topical and political plays (for example, the drama of Thomas Middleton). The Interregnum put a stop, or at least a caesura, to these lines of influence and allowed a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration” (Wikipedia).
“margaret in sense & sensibility”
Brilliant question and one I continually thought about while reading Sense & Sensibility and writing about it. What is the point of Margaret? From my day at the Fashion Museum I did learn that the Neoclassical costume of the period actually started with educational philosophy about children. Ideas were beginning to blossom in this period that children should be encouraged to run around, but prior dress (children were wearing corsets like adults as well as extremely expensive fabrics that were not particularly washable) was rather constrictive. Thus the light and airy cottons were imported from India to allow children a range of clothing wear that would eventually bring us today’s concept of “children” as well as Baby Gap. Granted, I do not think Margaret was intended as a representative of the children’s fashion world of the early 19th Century.
I have yet to see Margaret crop up in any academic works (but I also have not specifically looked for her) and her sole purpose of the novel seems to relay a small exchange between Marianne and Willoughby. I believe that Sense & Sensibility was one of Austen’s novels that received a good deal of editing from Austen’s own hand and perhaps Margaret at one point played a more significant part? After all, all five sisters of Pride & Prejudice get a good deal of “face time” while Margaret seems little more than scenery.
This post is accompanied by a rather random picture of a Jane Austen action figure.
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