"When we turn to Austen—and above all, to “Pride and Prejudice”—the qualities that come to mind are confidence, mastery, serenity, and tact. Especially tact. She spares us knowledge of herself, leaves us free to read the story through the window of her perfectly transparent prose. She doesn’t tax us with her personality. She keeps her feelings out of it—not her judgments, her feelings, and she never confuses the two.
“Pride and Prejudice” discredits one of our most deeply held beliefs: the idea that emotions have an absolute validity. Feelings are not right or wrong, we say; they just are. Or rather, feelings are always right, because they are—and we always have a right to them. It is a notion that was promulgated by the same feminism that helped to elevate Austen to her current eminence. So much of the feminist struggle involved asserting the legitimacy of women’s feelings. Emotions—the reality of female discontent within the patriarchal system—were the bedrock, in a sense, of the feminist argument.
But in the story of Elizabeth and how she learned to change her mind, Austen tells us something different. ... "
Again, one wonders why some (particularly genre writers and readers) persist in setting up straw men of academic and critical and feminist disdain for Austen. Is it to bolster their own sense of selves as legitimate critcs that they persist, over and over and over, against all facts (like t-baggers) in high horseing scholars, academics and literature students as knowing nothing -- while so often getting wrong the actual facts of Austen's life, times and career, or leaving out essential matters?
How many feminists have you heard sneer at Austen?
Way back when still in graduate school for my combination history and literature degree, all the women in it with me were feminists, and all of them adored Austen. Some of them even adored Heyer (that was an enthusiasm I was unable to share). I haven't seen that change much since then -- though it was indeed long ago now, and perhaps the newest generation is different. For one thing the English department and the study of literature is so well-proven now to be no lead to employment outside of being a student. The English departments have in many programs cut out their grad programs all together as their own funding, like that of all the humanities has been cut-cut-cut, and more and more English dept. faculty are made to act as admin assistants to Administration. As well the hip humanities focus is now on identity politics and culture, which tends to by- pass -- and even be actively hostile to -- our tremendous heritage of English literature.
So maybe, yeah?
But still, not among the feminists I know, young or old, will you find disdain for Austen.
In fact, even Tah-Nehisi Coates has fallen for Jane Awesome, as he calls her, in his quest to learn how to write the best fiction he can.
Hmm, I see the suggestion I made at the Book View Cafe blog that the most daring thing Austen did in P&P was to show Charlotte Lucas making herself a good marriage with Reverend Collins has shown up on the Atlantic too.
This is how I put it on the Book View Cafe: