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A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austenby Susannah Carson
Synopses & Reviews
For so many of us a Jane Austen novel is much more than the epitome of a great read. It is a delight and a solace, a challenge and a reward, and perhaps even an obsession. For two centuries Austen has enthralled readers. Few other authors can claim as many fans or as much devotion. So why are we so fascinated with her novels? What is it about her prose that has made Jane Austen so universally beloved?
In essays culled from the last one hundred years of criticism juxtaposed with new pieces by some of todays most popular novelists and essayists, Jane Austens writing is examined and discussed, from her witty dialogue to the arc and sweep of her story lines. Great authors and literary critics of the past offer insights into the timelessness of her moral truths while highlighting the unique confines of the society in which she composed her novels. Virginia Woolf examines Austens maturation as an artist and speculates on how her writing would have changed if shed lived twenty more years, while C. S. Lewis celebrates Austens mirthful, ironic take on traditional values.
Modern voices celebrate Austens amazing legacy with an equal amount of eloquence and enthusiasm. Fay Weldon reads Mansfield Park as an interpretation of Austens own struggle to be as “good” as Fanny Price. Anna Quindlen examines the enduring issues of social pressure and gender politics that make Pride and Prejudice as vital today as ever. Alain de Botton praises Mansfield Park for the way it turns Austens societal hierarchy on its head. Amy Bloom finds parallels between the world of Persuasion and Austens own life. And Amy Heckerling reveals how she transformed the characters of Emma into denizens of 1990s Beverly Hills for her comedy Clueless. From Harold Bloom to Martin Amis, Somerset Maugham to Jay McInerney, Eudora Welty to Margot Livesey, each writer here reflects on Austens place in both the literary canon and our cultural imagination.
We read, and then reread, our favorite Austen novels to connect with both her world and our own. Because, as A Truth Universally Acknowledged so eloquently demonstrates, the only thing better than reading a Jane Austen novel is finding in our own lives her humor, emotion, and love.
"Yale doctoral candidate Carson cobbles together previously published pieces of literary criticism by writers like Eudora Welty and Lionel Trilling with essays, several newly composed, by contemporary writers like Anna Quindlen and Fay Weldon. Pride and Prejudice fan Somerset Maugham finds Emma a snob and Mansfield Park's Fanny and Edmund intolerable prigs. Virginia Woolf contemplates what books Austen might have written had she lived beyond 42, speculating that her satire would have been more severe, and Amy Heckerling describes how she transformed Emma into the teen romance film Clueless set in 1990s Beverly Hills. C.S. Lewis finds that Austen's hard core of morality is what makes good comedy possible, and in one of the most personal essays, Brian Southam tells how he searched out a volume of juvenilia at a Kentish farmhouse belonging to Austen's great-great-niece. Heckerling aside, dissections of very particular plot and character points in most essays make this volume more appropriate to students than lay readers. And while separately the pieces make many astute points about Austen's oeuvre, overall the volume feels disjointed." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Why are readers so fascinated by Jane Austen's novels? In essays culled from the last 100 years of criticism, great authors and literary critics of the past and present offer insights into her writing and her unique appeal to readers across generations.
About the Author
Susannah Carson is a doctoral candidate in French at Yale University. Her previous degrees include an M.Phil from the Sorbonne Paris III, as well as MAs from the Université Lyon II and San Francisco State University. She has lectured on various topics of English and French literature at Oxford, the University of Glasgow, Yale, Harvard, Concordia, and Boston University.
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