Sep 24, 2021 • 44M

The Podcast - Episode 7: Jane Austen will teach you, challenge you, and rescue you

Professor George Justice on Men, Women, Power, and Romance in Jane Austen

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We're talking about the stories of Jane Austen - how they connect to us today, and connect us to each other.
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Hello friends,

Today, a podcast episode!

It would not have been possible to have our Everything Emma month here at the Austen Connection without consulting Professor George Justice.

Dr. Justice is the editor of the 2011 Norton Critical Edition of Emma, a professor of 18th Century British literature, and a frequent contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education. And he’s also the husband of Austen scholar, author, and friend Devoney Looser, who tells the story of their romantic meet-cute in a previous Austen Connection episode.

Consult him we did, and the conversation was really fun, because: Emma is fun, just as it is also complex, surprising, baffling, and romantic. 

ASU Professor George Justice says teaching Jane Austen and talking about the novels with his students transformed his thinking about his life and career. He spoke with the Austen Connection about Emma, Knightley and the complex dynamics of romance and relationships in Austen.
ASU Professor George Justice says teaching Jane Austen and talking about the novels with his students transformed his thinking about his life and career. He spoke with the Austen Connection about Emma, Knightley and the complex dynamics of romance, society, and relationships in Austen.

All of this complexity comes out in the conversation with George Justice. We explore what’s going on with Austen men, what’s going on with Austen women, and how romance and power get wrapped up in the stories of Austen. 

I first met Dr. Justice on the campus of the University of Missouri, where he served as dean of the graduate school. Now, he is a professor of English at Arizona State University. But in the process of that journey, from Missouri to Arizona, and from administration back to the classroom, he rediscovered the power of teaching Jane Austen.  

This journey also has involved a recovery from a serious illness, and Dr. Justice says one of the things that got him through tough times has been reading Jane Austen, and talking about Jane Austen with his students.

We spoke on a recent sunny Saturday, by Zoom. Here’s an edited excerpt from our conversation:

*Please note: There is a light mention of sexual assault in this conversation, about 20 minutes in, and again at 40 about minutes.

Plain Jane

I'm so glad that you're sharing your beautiful Saturday morning. 

Let me just ask a little bit about your work, George. So you're obviously on English literature with a focus on women's writing and publishing. And you're writing a book on Jane Austen, as a writer for Reaktion Books, the “Critical Lives” series. You also write about higher education, very compellingly, in the Chronicle of Higher Education

What, in all of this, are you most focused on and most passionate about, like, right this minute?

George Justice

I can't say there is one thing because you're right, you just outlined the two major threads of my career as they've evolved. They both involve students, higher education, and places where I think I can contribute. 

But on the literature side, it feels like a miracle to me to be able to write about Jane Austen, to do research on Jane Austen, and especially, to teach Jane Austen to undergraduate students, which I can't imagine a more enjoyable thing that I can pretend is productive for myself to do. 

But my most recently published book is How to Be a Dean from the Johns Hopkins University Press. 

So figuring out ways, outside of administration, to take my passion for higher education to make structural change, structural change that is also focused on the individual. 

And I think that's something that maybe I'll be able to bring back to a discussion of the novels, genre, and to teaching. I love thinking about what the novel is. But what I also love is what it means to individual human beings to change their lives and do great things in the world.

Plain Jane 

George, you said something else, about your illness, which you handled, it seemed, so gracefully. But I know that it's been huge. And in some ways, you were hit by this turn-the-world-upside-down thing. And then the world itself was turned upside down, not too long later. So in some ways, we're all kind of stunned. But you look the picture of health, and it's so great to see it. What were you reading during this time? Can Jane Austen get you through something like that?

George Justice

To me, it was therapeutic. It was therapeutic not only to reread her books, and to dig back in, more generally, to 18th century literature, but I was a little shaky, you know, I had been very sick. I had not from my own choice been thrust out of a job that I had spent 70 hours working on actively, and the rest of my life kind of thinking about, when I got into the classroom, and started teaching Jane Austen again. 

And it was absolutely life-changing. And I realized, that is what the life of an educator should be. And it was really … a life-changing class for me, not only because it marked kind of re-entry into a different kind of career: But the students were so shockingly great to me. To me, having these students in that class, loving Jane Austen and understanding things about Jane Austen, was transformational in my understanding about what the rest of my life and the rest of my career are going to be. I can bring together a complete passion for bringing Jane Austen not just to white, upper-middle class students at a private liberal arts college, but at Arizona State University, 120,000 students. It's now a Hispanic serving institution. It serves many, many first generation and low-income students, and they love Jane Austen. Not only with as much passion, but with at least as much insight as any students I've ever had anywhere else in my life. That class changed my life, when I had these students engaging with such depth and brilliance with the texts.

Plain Jane 

That's amazing. I hear you George, I think that's true. It is life changing. And this project arose also from the difficult times, the winter of the pandemic, and just looking for something to lift you up and a community to engage in. What you're describing, going into that classroom, sharing Austen, but then also having some brilliance shared back at you and just literally connecting around the stories. 

But you know, the Norton Anthology that you edited and curated came out almost 20 years ago. And you may have not looked at it recently. I have. But you were talking about the power of Jane Austen, then, so it's Everything Emma in the Austen connection right now.

George Justice

Good for me.

Plain Jane 

Yes. Well, is Emma your favorite novel of all time?

George Justice

Oh, that is a a very difficult question. And I know because you talked to Devoney and you had Devoney on your podcast a couple of weeks ago. In that now infamous conversation, I declared to Devoney that Mansfield Park was my favorite novel. And I do love Mansfield Park … because it was the first one that grabbed me. I mean, I was assigned it in a class my first year of grad school. I didn't read it until then, and I started reading it and it was just one of those amazing things, but my life was changed: How could I not have seen this or understood this in my past 22 years of life? I stayed up all night reading it, and it was like an onslaught. If you ask me, yes, that was my favorite.

Plain Jane 

Well, I'm just curious. It seems to me like you were a more mature 22 year old. I mean, I read Mansfield Park when I was just out of college. Weirdly, I've never been assigned much Jane Austen at all. I just discovered it after all of the degrees - it was only two degrees - in English. … It wasn't until later that I realized there's a heck of a lot going on with Austen. What were you noticing? Why were you reading it up late at night? I mean … I had kind of a weird education, up until college. But you had a good education. So maybe you did have the training to spot the subtexts.

George Justice

I don't know if it was about the subtext. I think it was about Fanny Price. 

Plain Jane

You like the underdog! Devoney said this … 

George Justice  

The underdog and the person with depth, with a strong, correct, and unassailable moral code, oppressed by the world. 

I mean, that was a thing that just for whatever reason, maybe, from my high school years, which were kind of miserable, the person who was neglected. I mean, it just spoke to me, this whole world moving around in a cynical and nasty way. And yet, there's a moral center to that world, which was Fanny Price. 

So it wasn't even, it was not a literary reading, where I was looking at themes and context. It was Fanny Price. Who is, as you know, of such huge controversy in the Jane Austen world, because there are so many self-proclaimed Janeites who hate Fanny Price. To me, Fanny Price is the true center of Jane Austen. Which is why I found the film both interesting and disturbing, because Patricia Rozema melds Jane Austen and Fanny Price together, which I think actually weakens Fanny Price. 

But I do believe that the role of Fanny Price in the world, and especially in her world, is a truth about the social world. And it grabbed me. 

To me, Fanny Price is the true center of Jane Austen. … I do believe that the role of Fanny Price in the world, and especially in her world, is a truth about the social world. And it grabbed me. 

And the unbelievable moment when she turns down Henry Crawford. I always bring it up in class and I ask my students, “Should she have accepted Henry Crawford?” And the ones who read it correctly but glibly, always say, “Of course not.” The ones who are very cynical say, “Of course she should.” The real answer is, “I don't know.” Because that actually is the answer that the narrator provides to some extent. I just thought it captured a truth about the choices we have to make in the world, and the possibility of choosing good, not as an obvious choice, and not as a glibly self-justifying choice. But as a choice that resonates as truth within one's own moral complexity.

Plain Jane

I agree with everything you're saying about Fanny Price. … She is ascendant. And you talk about Henry Crawford: She's superior. Like, you can't read that without thinking, “This child, this female child of the species, is superior to everyone. What are you gonna do with that, people? What are you going to do with that? Not even the parsonage and Edmund and not even the grand estate of Mansfield Park is worthy of this child. So, take that!” And I don't know if people really see it that way. You say it's still a little controversial. But you saw this when you were 22?

George Justice 

Well, I think it was a weakness in my psychology.

Plain Jane 

No, because Austen was showing you. Austen was showing you. But we just, I feel like there's still so much to unpack with Austen with every new generation. 

George Justice

And she shows it to you both without humiliating her and without glorifying her. So, as you were talking so eloquently, what came into my mind [is] another woman author of the 19th century, George Eliot and Middlemarch and Dorothea Brooke, and Dorothea Brooke is both humiliated and glorified. 

You are right, Fanny Price tears everything down. The humiliations are our humiliations from society, not from the writer. I mean, Dorothea Brooke is somewhat humiliated by George Eliot. Jane Austen never humiliates Fanny Price, even if Mrs. Norris is there brutalizing her, but she’s definitely not glorifying her either. Fanny Price comes back, and in some ways you could say she assimilates herself to the patriarchy, she marries her cousin, the bossy Edmund  - I don't even think he even fully 100% appreciates her but maybe that's just me. I think I would have been better for Fanny Price than he is.

Plain Jane

You would have, George! And no, Austen does not want us to love Edmund, you know? That's clear. She does not love Edmund. We’re giving our opinions here! So let us know, people, if you disagree. But yeah, but I love what you're saying, George, that Austen is not humiliating. And in fact, it's not really Fanny tearing things down. Right? Fanny is not doing that; Austen is doing that. And the world is humiliating. The world is full of humiliations, insults, injuries. And here's how you stand. Here's how you stand in this.

You point out something in your writing that I want to get to too, which is that there's imagination. This is, in some ways, a fantasy of what can happen. This is re-envisioning a world where a young woman, a young person who identifies as female, a young person who identifies as however you identify, whatever your race, color, sexuality, gender, you - just as a human - you can stand, and this is how you might survive and maybe even be ascendant. Even though it's not necessarily going to happen in real life.

So, Mansfield Park. The next novel Austen wrote, I believe, right after Emma. How does she go from Fanny Price to this heroine that has so little to vex her?

George Justice 

When you look at Mansfield Park, which is certainly an experiment in light of Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, and a novelist who is a genius and who is shaping the form and breaking the form at the same time that she's inhabiting it. In a way it's the right next experiment. 

You take somebody who's very much unlike Fanny Price. She's wealthy. She's beautiful. She's admired. She never makes social mistakes. Really. She is the queen of the world, as opposed to Cinderella. So Fanny Price is Cinderella. Emma is one of the wicked sisters. Yet, and the brilliant ... “I'm going to create a heroine nobody but myself will much like”: That's something an artist would do. It's a kind of intellectual game. But unlike the way postmodern novels sometimes [create] experiments without a heart. It's an experiment in which life overwhelms whatever kind of intellectual experiment may have given rise, to trying to write about an entirely different character, because there is just as much life in Emma, as there is in Mansfield Park. And there is in its own way, just as much integrity in the character of Emma, as there is in the character Fanny Price.

Plain Jane 

It's interesting because she's taking us on this roller coaster ride. So she's like, “Here, I showed you the poor, mousy Cinderella, who becomes ascendent. How does that happen? Now I'm going to show you somebody who - as you say, George - the queen, she's at the top. But she also is going to change and evolve. And in both cases, she's focusing on what matters to her, which is character, and kindness, and how to exist in the world - not to just be on top because that's not the goal, people - we’re still getting that memo. But it's to be a contributor, a good citizen, a kind person. How do you feel about that, that aspect of this, that she's got someone on the bottom there, she's got a female character that's already at the top. But yet, what are the themes that remained the same? 

George Justice

Well, I think you actually just put it in a way that crystallizes something for me. And it's what I become much more self-conscious about …  in life: which is that kindness is at the core. And so that's not something that I wrote about in the introduction that you very kindly mentioned, to the Norton Critical Edition. But it is something that is absolutely true. And I point out to students, you know, [Emma] does what she's supposed to do. She visits the poor, she's charitable to the poor. And that's the kind of structural kindness, and she doesn't do it cynically. So there is a goodness to her character that gets expressed. And kindness. Of course, as we know, she's not always kind to some of the people that are closest to her, including Miss Bates, including Jane Fairfax. … One of the prevalent readings of Emma continues to be that Emma is … humiliated into kindness. The scene on Box Hill, where she is so cruel to Miss Bates, and so out of touch with her surroundings, because one thing about Emma is that she is unbelievably … perceptive about the world around her, at the same time that she doesn't put all the clues together. So she's this detective who's taking in all the evidence, and then she can't quite put it together to understand what's going on. Like Mr. Elton trying to rape her in the carriage - when anybody who had been reading it, anybody in Emma's position should have been able to see exactly what was happening. But that's very different from Box Hill, where she's not even perceptive. … But at the same time, that is a crucial moment in which she certainly sees the world more clearly and is able to correlate her kindness as you put it, this is correlated with her role in the social hierarchy, and her own personal satisfaction and romance. And it doesn't stamp out her imagination. Her imagination is still there. … No, she's a brilliantly imaginative person who doesn't have a job where she can do anything with it. … 

I love Mr. Knightley. But Emma, Emma wins the novel. And she wins novel not because she makes some sort of cynical or moral change from who she was, to who she will be as Mrs. George Knightley. It's because she has reshaped her world - uncomfortably because we're still in patriarchal, early 19th century England. But she shaped a world in which she can continue to love, be kind, have a lot of nice things, be admired by other people, which she certainly loves to do. And do good in the world. 

Plain Jane

So speaking of Knightley: You love Knightley. You say something in your intro [to the Norton Critical Edition]: Emma is being forced to recalibrate the cultural and the social hierarchy. She thinks she knows this social hierarchy. She has that classic definition of privilege, where it's not something she has to think about. She's just at the top of it. But she in fact is wrong about it, and then it turns out - you point this out - she's recalibrating, but that recalibration is coming every single time from challenges from Knightley. How does a romance and marriage and all of this fit into this recalibration and what is it like, also George, reading this as as a person identifying as a man reading that?

George Justice 

Hmm, let me backtrack a little bit into how you've set this up in a very interesting, complicated way. It is Austen who has given Knightley those characteristics and that genuine insight into the world. Mr. Knightley really does understand and he's older - I mean, it grosses my students out how significantly older Mr. Knightley is. And he's kind to her and he's loved her since  - that also grosses out the students ...

Plain Jane 

… for some reason Austen likes that older, very older, powerful guy to be the one just kind of showing us the way. I mean, she gives that power, and who knows why she does that. 

George Justice

But it's not just giving him the power. It's also, I do believe, he is speaking for her. He is speaking correctly. The brilliant, writer, critic named Sarah Raff wrote a wonderful essay that talks about Emma and Mr. Knightley and Emma's relationship in the context of the letters of advice that Jane Austen is writing to her niece, who's trying to decide whom to marry. And there is a bullying, authoritative voice and approach to her niece, that mirrors a little bit of this relationship. It's a it's a great essay about it.

Emma wins the novel. … because she has reshaped her world - uncomfortably because we're still in patriarchal, early 19th century England. But she shaped a world in which she can continue to love, be kind, have a lot of nice things, be admired by other people, which she certainly loves to do. And do good in the world. 

Plain Jane

If you're a woman, Regency writer, you're a genius, and you see the world and you're reflecting the world, there'll be some things that … occur when you have genius and imagination and art intersecting, right? Some things are going to occur to us 206 years later that you didn't envision, but … she's giving Knightley her viewpoints because people will listen to Knightley. People will listen to Knightley and not necessarily listen to someone else.

George Justice 

And maybe in a romantic relationship - this is utter speculation! - she'd be more the Knightley character. And so you know, we do have these interesting intersections of gender, power and attraction. 

Plain Jane

I love that we don't know how Jane Austen identified 100%. We have no idea. She may have identified with Knightley, she might have been in love with Emma, she might have ... Who knows? I think that's wonderful. And that's a whole other aspect we could dive into which is the LGBTQI critical approaches and queer theory approaches to Austen.

Really the question we were discussing, sorry, is how it all ends up in the hands of Knightley, but also how to channel all of this into romance?

George Justice 

Oh, yeah. I mean, because it is romantic. And I know there are some against-the-grain readers who don't find the love between Emma and Mr. Knightley plausible. I am not one of them. I find the scene - and it's a scene in which despite the fact that Mr. Knightley has just dressed her down and made her weep - the narrative is constructed so that Emma is allowed in private to have her moment of internal revelation that no one but she must marry Mr. Knightley. And then she also finally, instead of being clueless, she figures out that he likes her. So in that, it is a, to me, it's a wonderful thing. When he he starts, you know, “Can I talk to you?” And Emma’s a little nervous. Because she doesn't 100% know. But as the conversation gets going, she knows exactly what's coming. And so the power is turned. Emma actually knows before he knows that Mr. Knightley is going to propose to her and that she will say yes. Before Mr. Knightley understands that. And so he's, like, mortified: I shouldn't go on. And she's like: No, no, go ahead and go on. And it's an interesting power dynamic. And I'm certainly not the person who's seen this first or seen it best. Claudia Johnson's [written] about Mr. Knightley as a character who is very masculine. And yet he's a kind of new man, because he is truly emotionally sensitive to Emma.

[I]t is romantic. And I know there are some against-the-grain readers who don't find the love between Emma and Mr. Knightley plausible. I am not one of them.

What is interesting in the romance is that power is so completely built into the sexual energy between Mr. Knightley and Emma. He was a teenager, looking at a little girl. And as they grew up, he would kind of mock her and tease her. And she'd flirt with him, totally unafraid of this older guy, really. So I mean, she was herself, who really has the power there? And …  in the context of Box Hill, where he really has, you know, put his hand down, if you reread the novel from the beginning, Mr. Knightley doesn't have really any power over her. He has her total respect, but she has the power of doing what she wants. And that really is what comes through at the end - that this powerful romance, which I think it is not a kind of dominance-submission thing. It is really a romance of two morally and intellectually equal people. They are very masculine and very feminine - it's interesting if you get into the GLBTQ thing, because there is a long history of people seeing Emma not as being a woman. But we shouldn't forget that it's very clear … and Jan Fergus points this out really beautifully in an essay that I put at the back of my Norton Critical Edition: We linger over the feminine, beautiful form of Emma. But her mind is powerfully intellectual. … Even as it’s kind. She is a kind, intellectually brilliant person who answers to nobody. So where you might see it as, “She makes all these lists of books that she hasn't read!” … That shows her power. She has the intellectual power to know what she should do. And she has the intellectual power and the judgment to say, “I'm not going to do it.” And is happy to live within the structures, the class structures, the social structures, the architectural structures of her society. But she kind of scoffs at any structures that would restrain her moral and intellectual worth.

Plain Jane  

Well, it's almost like she doesn't even notice those structures. She's like, clueless in some interesting ways.

George Justice 

Yes, but I, but I don't think it's clueless overall.  … She's clear-sighted and not insecure. She's totally non-insecure. It's kind of amazing.

Plain Jane

Well, it's interesting describing her power. It's true. Like you say, Austen's not humiliating these characters with Emma, she's doing the opposite. She's showing someone who is not only superior, but she's artificially superior. Emma's so powerful, she can be as wrong as the Eltons and the, you know, all of the wrong patriarchal figures. Emma's wrong and artificially propped up just like they are. But she has this transformation that comes from this this man. .. There was a little post I did called The Smartest Person in the Room. ...I feel like maybe Austen wanted someone, man/woman/person to be as smart as she was. That's a hard way to go through the world when marriage is your option. Who is going to be smart enough for Jane Austen? She didn't find it. She created stories with people who find it. But at the same time, obviously, she showed us so much more than that romance.

George Justice  

That’s sad! And it's very true. 

Let's go through from the beginning: I'm just going to ask you. Do you think Mr. Darcy is worthy of Elizabeth Bennet?

Plain Jane  

Yes, I believe that. It seems to me like Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett make each other worthy of each other. It seems to me like the both characters You want to just focus on Darcy and Elizabeth for a minute? 

George Justice  

Yeah, I mean, I'm going to go through the whole list.

Plain Jane 

Externally, he's worthy, right? He's a ticket. Internally, not so much. But because he transforms, they make each other better. I feel like they make each other better. And I feel like Austin is showing us that marriage - if you're going to get married, make sure it's somebody who will make you better and not make you worse. And she's full of examples of people who make each other worse.

George Justice

The Crofts. Admiral and Mrs. Croft make each other better.

Plain Jane

And are they the only ones?!

George Justice

They probably are. I want to go [through the list] because I think this is something I haven't thought of. We already said that Edmund really isn't worthy of Fanny. But Darcy is worthy of Elizabeth. 

Would you say that Edward is worthy of Elinor.

Plain Jane 

Almost! He has potential. That little engagement on the side is extremely disappointing. But he needs to speak up. He needs to grow a spine. But he has potential Maybe with Elinor's extremely strong spine, those two will be all right. What do you think?

George Justice

I don't think he's worthy of her. But he's whom she chose. And he's not terrible. That's like Edmund. It's, that's who Fanny wanted and he's not terrible. I'd say the same thing about Henry Tilney. Catherine Morland’s not as fully developed a character. But he's, he's not a bad guy. 

We linger over the feminine, beautiful form of Emma. But her mind is powerfully intellectual. … Even as it’s kind. She is a kind, intellectually brilliant person who answers to nobody.

But if you take Mr. Darcy, and you take Captain Wentworth, and you take, Mr. Knightley, those are characters who embody - as I said, Claudia Johnson talks about it - these new men who are masculine and powerful, and yet have a sensitive intelligence to them, as well. And respect and value deeply the women that they're with. … This conversation has made me want to think about that. And why the last two, thinking about Persuasion, and Emma, the last two of those powerful men are truly worthy, I think. And you know, of course, I think the moment at the end of that letter, in Persuasion, is one of the most intense things. But I know a colleague who thinks it's camp, that it's purposely overdone. I don't believe that at all. I think it's one of the most beautiful things ever written in the English language.

Plain Jane  

It's so beautiful. I love your categorizing all these leading men, who's worthy, who's not. It's really interesting. You, okay, I had to pick up the Norton Edition, Claudia Johnson. Here's what she says: She says Knightley is “a fantastically wishful creation of benign authority, in whom the benefits and attractions of power are preserved, and the abuses and encroachments expelled.” So what do you think is going on with that as you categorize the leading men? That's Claudia Johnson's Knightley, wrapped up in power.

George Justice 

And because authority and power are inherently not wrong things in these books. When I'm teaching classes, I bring it back to the authority and the power of the narrator, who is the actual authority and power in all of these novels. And I think that's partly why the turn from an epistolary novel, where, you know, it's harder to weld that to increasingly intense narrative strategies that express their authority, often by merging the voice through free indirect discourse, with the voice of the main character. So it is such a trick to have the most fully controlling and authoritative and benign narrators who efface themselves and express their authority and power, almost through their own self effacement.

Plain Jane 

Let me George, read your own writing back to you, because this is so amazing. And it just kind of sums up everything that we said, and I have this kind of as our last question. You write almost 20 years ago in your introduction to the Norton Critical Edition. Here's what you wrote: “Reading Emma requires interaction. We impose meaning on the text just as the text pushes its various meanings on to us. Trying to understand Emma, with its interplay of psychological realism and moral vision, is like trying to understand ourselves and the world. We must be both introspective and exceedingly observant of what lies around us. Complete success eludes us. We must reread, reflect and change our minds, and perhaps become better people for having done so.” I almost cried when I read that!

George Justice 

That's very kind (laughing). I can't believe I wrote that. It does sound pretty good. 

Plain Jane

My question for you with that is, Do you still think that? Twenty years later, almost 20 years later?

George Justice 

Yeah. And that's an interesting thing I do. And it's an interesting thing, and it's humbling about teaching, and it's a wonderful thing about teaching. Like any teacher, when I teach a novel a lot of times, like I do with Emma, I have go-to points, I have shticks. I have different scenes I like to focus on. … So I'm, you know, leading, I like to talk about the carriage theme, for example, and I do have a strong reading, and Mr. Elton is basically raping Emma, and I want students to see the actual violence that is in that scene. It isn't just the sloppy, silly guy who is physically menacing in that space and in the way that he approached.

But then students will say, “Well, I read it in this way.” And any good teacher has to be able to say, “Wow, I hadn't thought about that.” Just as your focusing on just your use of the word kindness, and putting that deeply into our conversation about Emma. I had not articulated it to myself in that way before. That's new to me. And I can tell you, I'm going to be thinking about that for months to come.

So I do believe that every time I read this book, it's a new book to me. She's constructed the books so carefully that it's impossible to understand even what's happening, 20 times through the book, for me. And then when you add the increased complexity of how human beings interact with each other, and how the fixed and unfixed parts of their personality come into this complicated matrix of interaction. 

Yeah, it's a new book every time. And it's a new book that is morally compelling. Because it tells us to look at everything anew.


Thanks for joining this conversation, friends.

As always, let us know your thoughts on: Austen’s men - who’s Worthy and who’s Not Worthy? Who makes your list? What are your thoughts on Emma, Knightley, and the power dynamics in Austen’s romances?

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Meanwhile, stay in touch, and hope you enjoy a beautiful autumn with soups, teas, and lots of great novels.

Yours truly,

Plain Jane

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