A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers On Why We Read Jane Austen

by Susannah Carson

Random House Publishing Group | November 2, 2011 | Hardcover

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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 today's most popular novelists and essayists, Jane Austen's 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 Austen's maturation as an artist and speculates on how her writing would have changed if she'd lived twenty more years, while C. S. Lewis celebrates Austen's mirthful, ironic take on traditional values.

Modern voices celebrate Austen's amazing legacy with an equal amount of eloquence and enthusiasm. Fay Weldon reads Mansfield Park as an interpretation of Austen's 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 Austen's societal hierarchy on its head. Amy Bloom finds parallels between the world of Persuasion and Austen's 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 Austen's 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.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 320 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 0.79 in

Published: November 2, 2011

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400068053

ISBN - 13: 9781400068050

Found in: Reference and Language

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A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers On Why We Read Jane Austen

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers On Why We Read Jane Austen

by Susannah Carson

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 320 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 0.79 in

Published: November 2, 2011

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400068053

ISBN - 13: 9781400068050

About the Book

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.

Read from the Book

Susanna Clarke WHY WE READ JANE AUSTEN: YOUNG PERSONS IN INTERESTING SITUATIONS "Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of." So said Jane Austen in Emma in the early 1800s, and for the rest of the nineteenth century novelists got a lot of mileage out of young persons who either died or married. Dickens excelled at the young persons who died, Austen did the ones who married. Stories about love and marriage are full of the good stuff: romance, sexual attraction, jealousy, suspense, misunderstanding. But in the early nineteenth century they had another dimension. All of a woman''s Future—her happily-ever-after or lack of the same—was implicit in her choice of husband. Such, at least, was the conventional wisdom of the age, and whether or not it was entirely true, clearly many things did depend on whom a woman married-her income, her status, her home, perhaps even her occupations. If the female characters in Austen''s novels sometimes give the impression of considering potential husbands rather dispassionately, there is good reason for it. In many ways they are not only choosing a husband, they are also choosing a career. By their marriage Austen''s heroines may become a parson''s wife (Elinor, Fanny, and Catherine), a landowner''s wife (Elizabeth and Emma), or a ship''s captain''s wife (Anne). With the exception of Emma, marriage holds
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From the Publisher

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 today's most popular novelists and essayists, Jane Austen's 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 Austen's maturation as an artist and speculates on how her writing would have changed if she'd lived twenty more years, while C. S. Lewis celebrates Austen's mirthful, ironic take on traditional values.

Modern voices celebrate Austen's amazing legacy with an equal amount of eloquence and enthusiasm. Fay Weldon reads Mansfield Park as an interpretation of Austen's 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 Austen's societal hierarchy on its head. Amy Bloom finds parallels between the world of Persuasion and Austen's 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 Austen's 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.

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.

Editorial Reviews

"Jane Austen...remains a hot literary property.  A Truth Universally Acknowledged...explains her eternal appeal."-USA Today
 
"A collection for both newcomers to the charms of Jane Austen and those long-time 'Janeites'. …The writers in this volume explain their own relationship with Austen and together are a kind of invitation for us, whether we're Janeites or not, to understand why we are so in her thrall." -Chicago Tribune
 
"This book would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone who loves Austen."-Economist
 
"Austenites will enjoy dipping into this collection."-Booklist
 
"The pieces make many astute points about Austen''s oeuvre."-Publishers Weekly
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