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What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (2012)

Tekijä: John Mullan

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
4632454,230 (4.07)63
A literary scholar poses twenty questions that reveal deep truths about the iconic writer and her lasting influence, demonstrating how Austen's genius can be better appreciated with an understanding of her books' character dynamics, unspoken sexuality, and period conventions.
  1. 10
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  2. 10
    Jane Austen, the Secret Radical (tekijä: Helena Kelly) (nessreader)
    nessreader: both fresh looks at the ploughed over field of austen studies, aimed at the intelligent fan rather than the academic.
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englanti (23)  ruotsi (1)  Kaikki kielet (24)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 24) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
What a great little book! I wouldn't say it's 20 crucial puzzles, and I don't think much is getting solved - but I do think these are 20 great little essays on topics in Jane Austen's books, obviously written with knowledge, respect, and great love. Definitely best if you already read at least Austen's six completed novels and maybe even [b:Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon|208729|Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon|Jane Austen|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1371223264l/208729._SY75_.jpg|1890744] Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon, if you're very determined.
I know for sure I'll go back to everything she wrote with more insight and admiration. Very much looking forward to that! ( )
  Yggie | Oct 12, 2023 |
I really enjoyed this. Mullan takes different topics, techniques, etc. and talks about how Austen used them throughout her novels. I gained a lot of insight into her writing and will notice these as I reread her novels.

Here are some of my favorite topics discussed. In "What do the Characters Call Each Other", there was some great insight into the meaning behind using first names, or last names only, or titles. He also points out what couples call each other. All of these are tied in to how Austen sets up plot points or characterizations. In "Why is the Weather Important", Mullan points out how Austen uses the weather to set a mood and also as a plot device - sometimes bring characters together and sometimes keeping them apart. In "Do we Ever See the Lower Classes" he points out that even when servants aren't named, much of the behavior of the main characters is influenced by their presence, which contemporary readers of Austen would have felt more deeply than modern readers do. "What do characters say when the heroine isn't there?" contrasts the different novels in terms of how present the main heroine is and how that presence or point of view shapes the novel.

I also loved "Which important characters never speak in the novels" and the final two "When Does Jane Austen speak directly to the reader" and "How experimental a novelist is Jane Austen?" which spend some time placing her in comparison to other authors and analyzing the novelty and innovation of her writing technique.

Overall, I really loved this and I could see dipping into again at some point. Only recommended for someone very familiar with Austen's novels, though. Mullan assumes you'll remember all the scenes and characters that he throws into every essay without giving any background. ( )
  japaul22 | May 23, 2023 |
Last year at the Jane Austen Festival I happened upon the tail end of a presentation in the main tent and regretted that I hadn't been there for the whole thing. It was by this author, John Mullan, and he was quizzing the audience about certain obscure details in Jane Austen's novels. It was very interesting. After reading his book now, I feel like there are a couple of things I may notice more than before when next I read JA.
The most interesting thing is to realize that Austen was a pioneer of a new technique in fiction, which came to be called free indirect style. This is one of the things that always delighted me, but I didn't know it had a name. It's where the third person narration temporarily takes on the viewpoint or even communication style of one character. It's no longer the omniscient, objective voice: it's as if the author is inhabiting the mind of one of her characters and reporting things ONLY from that person's mental processes. It's fun to spot, because it's never pointed out that this is what's happening.

But there are other subjects worth considering, for instance, the high value placed on reading. We bemoan the fact today that people don't read, but many chose not to in Austen's day as well, and this is seen as a major personality component, something that might even be part of compatibility in marriage.
Anyway, it's a good, well researched work that provides some food for thought for those who know their Austen inside and out. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
Ignore the subtitle, which is clearly the invention of publishers who knew that "Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" has a sexier ring to it than "Twenty short, pleasantly essays about various aspects of Jane Austen's writings which help you better understand their social contexts and literary innovation but aren't truly essential to understanding the narrative."

Here, John Mullan writes accessibly, if sometimes a little repetitively, about a variety of topics, from the social signifiers of income in Regency England, to why the weather looms so large in Austen's writings, to the significance of the blush, and how knowledge of these things provides the reader with new layers of appreciation for Austen as a meticulous author. (I noted with amusement, however, that he didn't quote Tony Tanner's infamous (to my mind) Freudian analysis of Elizabeth Bennet's blushing as signifying a "mild erection of the head.")

The sweet spot for this in terms of audience is probably people who have read at least the majority of Austen's completed novels, but who aren't fans enough of Austen, or of Regency literature/history more generally, to have already imbibed what Mullan says here via osmosis. ( )
  siriaeve | Jan 5, 2022 |
I bought this directly from John Mullan himself at the Jane Austen Festival at his "Considering Nothanger Abbey" lecture. The lecture was awesome and the book followed the suit. It's definitely meant for people who have read at least most of her books, although I don't understand why you would pick it up unless you had.

I learned many new things and I just basically enjoyed reading about what makes Jane Austen such an awesome writer. I have seen many essays/lectures on male authors ( like Dostoyevsky or Tolstoi) but people seem to tell all the things they think are wrong, when it comes to a female author. I knew she was awesome and some of my thoughts (although not as refined) are definitely in the book, but also I realized why I like them so much and why my favorites are the books they are. Even though the book is fairly academic discussion, I find it very approachable and no previous knowledge in literature studies is necessary. ( )
  RankkaApina | Feb 22, 2021 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 24) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
The approach, with its attention to detail, determination to solve puzzles, and respect for the text, is reminiscent of John Sutherland's approach in Is Heathcliff a Murderer?
 
One effect of reading Mullen's compendium is to make you appreciate the sheer density, the tight-woven intricacy, of every scene and every exchange in Austen. His approach illuminates, because no detail is redundant: Mrs Norris scolding the carpenter's son, or Mr Perry's children eating wedding cake, or Captain Benwick's taste in literature. Every remark, every accident, every material exchange, is a revelation. Rather, each detail reveals just itself, its own place in the whole unfolding story of how things are, at a specific place and moment in time, in a specific nexus of human relations – in Highbury, or at the Camden Place evening party, or between Mary Musgrove and her in-laws. "How things are" is obvious, once you can see it; it's easy to read, once it's written. What's less easy is to imagine holding all that material at once in imagination, and finding the right run of words to put it on to the page; making sentences unroll convincingly into an illusion of seeing and hearing, movement and intelligence. If it works, then reading is like a sensation of being there. Janeites obsess over belonging inside her worlds, because she makes us all feel present in them; she includes us in the club of those who see.
 
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In memory of Tony Tanner
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Did Jane Austen know how good she was? (Introduction)
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A literary scholar poses twenty questions that reveal deep truths about the iconic writer and her lasting influence, demonstrating how Austen's genius can be better appreciated with an understanding of her books' character dynamics, unspoken sexuality, and period conventions.

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