Jane Austen’s 'Persuasion,' Groundhog Day, and a month of love
Here’s what just happened, and what’s up next
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It’s been a month. We’re in snow storms here in the American Midwest. If you’re lucky, that means Snow Days - but with Zooms rather than sleds.
Still, it’s nice to have some extra time, minus the commute, to listen to some Jane Austen podcasts and consume serial cups of tea by the fire.
Wherever you are, hope you are safe, warm, and taking time for some Jane Austen conversation.
Here at the Austen Connection, we’ve all earned a breather - after four weeks, in bitter temperatures, talking about Austen’s last and, I feel, deepest novel, Persuasion.
So this post is one of those let’s-take-a-moment posts, to look at what we’ve just done - Persuasion Four Ways - and what’s up next for February - Bad Love! - and beyond that, Jane Austen TV!
Persuasion 4 Ways
We did it, friends.
We tackled this deep, soulful novel four ways - and your emails, comments, and engagement helped power this discussion all along the way. These Persuasion posts got more visits than ever before.
And it’s not too late for you to catch up on any of these discussions you missed - if you have any feedback or ideas, go ahead and comment on these posts and we’ll keep the conversation going!
Here’s what we’re still talking about:
Anne Elliot and the Conversation: As scholar Linda Bree points out in “Belonging to the Conversation in Persuasion,” the heroine of this novel is always listening to others. So much is painfully heard and overheard. But then, there’s a turning point in the novel, things go another direction, and it’s Captain Wentworth who is doing the overhearing, and Anne is doing the talking - culminating in her rousing climactic speech about women, love, and loss. Check out this conversation-about-the-conversation in Persuasion, and let us know your thoughts!
Badass Sophy Croft: Y’all went crazy for Mrs. Croft! This post got the most engagement of any post so far here at the Austen Connection. And not surprising, because Sophy Croft is a true Regency badass. She’s steering the carriage, taking care of her Admiral husband, talking back to her brother Capt. Wentworth, and literally (as she orchestrates the renting of Kellynch Hall) doing the business.
The Choice: Jane Austen’s heroines have a choice to make. Here’s what happens next. When you think about it, it’s so true. Austen heroines might not have a lot of room to maneuver in their world, but they find what agency they can. Sometimes those choices are loud - like Lizzy’s refusal of Darcy’s first proposal - and sometimes they are quiet, internal, reflective choices like Anne’s personal decision amidst uncertainty and possibility, that she will not marry the very eligible William Elliot and step into the shoes of her “beloved” late mother at the family’s estate, and she will instead be true to her love of Capt. Wentworth. She will love him and no other. This is a decision to love, no matter whether it is ultimately returned and consummated in marriage. And when you think about it, women making decisions is a bit part of Austen’s work. I’m probably leaving out some fascinating choices from Austen here - so check it out, and let us know what’s missing!
Jane Austen’s Groundhog Day - Our last post of the month looks at the use of time in this novel. I love time-travel stories, from Octavia Butler to Audrey Niffenegger, because for me they are less about the gadgets and gizmos of science fiction, and more about a way to explore and experience the regret, loss, and memory that deeply inform the human experience, and all are brought to us by Time. In Persuasion, Austen is doing some truly groundbreaking and inventive stuff with her writing, and much of it involves her manipulation of the concept of time in this story. And, we’re still into this time thing today - with films like Groundhog Day, and Charlie Kaufman stories like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Bad at love? Let us count the ways!
And here we are in February, friends.
It’s the month of love, and there is so much we could dive into in the world of Jane Austen and Love - and we’re having none of that!
Instead, we’re going negative! Because we feel that Bad Love is in many ways the truest, most instructive, and most entertaining love in Austen’s stories.
Y’all went crazy for Mrs. Croft! … She’s steering the carriage, taking care of her Admiral husband, talking back to her brother Capt. Wentworth, and literally (as she orchestrates the renting of Kellynch Hall) doing the business.
Sure, there’s always plenty of possibility of true love - between Lizzy and Darcy, Catherine and Henry, Emma and Knightley, Elinor and Edward, Marianne and Colonel Brandon, and maybe even Fanny and Edmund - but not much more than that possibility is explored.
What is explored is the many, varied, and fascinating ways people find to be terrible to each other, and bad at love.
So stay tuned for this - and meanwhile, please let me know your favorite example of Bad Love in Austen, whether it’s from a fantastically unhappy married couple, or just a bad family member, send us your favorite example and we’ll include it in this discussion. You can simply reply to this email, or comment here:
Jane Austen TV!
And beyond February, in March, you know what’s coming, and many of you are counting the days: It’s the month of the new Bridgerton season, dropping on Netflix March 25, and Sanditon, dropping on PBS March 20th. And now I learn that the Regency dating show, now known as The Courtship, is set to debut on NBC March 6th.
So, March is going to be about getting the popcorn, curling up with a cocktail, and the remote control, and partying with Jane Austen TV.
We’ll be here trying to make sense of it all - so stay tuned, and in the meantime, let us know:
Are you looking forward to the new series of Sanditon, or Bridgerton? Have any watch parties planned? What about the Regency dating series - might this be the dating series we all didn’t know we wanted?!
Let us know your thoughts, as we prepare for all this watching and talking!
Meanwhile, stay safe, warm, and wrapped in wonderful stories,
Here are some of the many readings and conversations that influenced the discussion in our January posts on Persuasion:
Marilyn Butler’s “Jane Austen and the War of Ideas”
Claudia Johnson’s Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel
UCL Professor John Mullan’s book What Matters in Jane Austen
Jocelyn Harris - A Revolution Almost Beyond Expression
Linda Bree’s edited edition of Persuasion
Nina Auerbach - “O Brave New World”
BBC Radio 4 “Open Book” program, where Richard Beard is examining Time in fiction - and in the most recent episode he quotes E.M. Forster: “In a novel, there is always a clock.”
Professor Maria DeBlassie writes about witchery, magic, all things gothic and Jane Austen, from New Mexico.
Here’s the Austen Connection conversation with Professor Maria DeBlassie.
Jane Fairfax Drops the Mic - and makes a choice!
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