Welcome to Northanger Abbey!!!

 “Jane Austen? I feel I am approaching dangerous ground. The reputation of Jane Austen is surrounded by cohorts of defenders who are ready to do murder for their sacred cause.” Arnold Bennett, 1927, Literary Critic 

While talking to a friend about #AustenTogether, she said she was eager to do this though she was a bit nervous because she considered herself “an Austen failure.” No!

If you are someone who loves Austen, welcome. We are excited to hear your commentary!

If you are someone who has never read Austen, but maybe you’ve seen the movies, and you want to know what all the fuss is about, welcome! At some point, we need to talk about the novels vs. the movies. I will make what might be an astounding claim right now: I have never seen a movie based on an Austen novel. (Don’t fight me on this yet—we can discuss later. 😉

If you have tried to read Austen in the past, and it just didn’t work for you, I’m hoping you’ll give this first novel a go. In some ways, it isn’t as practiced and smooth as Pride and Prejudice, the novel most are familiar with. But I think it is filled with wit, and with a love of reading, and great examples of friendship and family dynamics.

I love Austen’s style of writing, but it might take awhile for you to adjust. That’s fine. Please point out sentences you don’t quite get, and we’ll jump in and help. Also, Austen can be outright and sharply funny, but she also often writes in a very nuanced fashion. When you first begin to read her, you might find that you are missing things. She isn’t trying to hide anything (I have just come from reading freshman essays where a few of my students talk about the hidden messages in the text. I don’t think Austen is deliberately hiding things from us.) So please, if you think you are missing something, share. And those of you who notice an interesting nuance, please point it out. Every time I read Austen, I find new points to consider. This delights me. I see her work as being quite rich.

What is happening this week:

  • We will discuss the first three chapters beginning at noon, Monday, May 11.
  • If something struck your fancy while reading, either something that amused or confused you, please post about it. Anything you post on Twitter that has #AustenTogether in it will be seen by people watching that hashtag. If you want to be sure I see it, include @MysteryPhD too.

For example:

@MysteryPhD Reading Austen has changed my life! #AustenTogether

  • Our plan is to read 3 chapters a day every day.
  • I am going to create a separate section in the blog for people who are so inclined to share their connection to Austen
  • Before noon tomorrow, on the blog and on Twitter, I will post a thought about the initial chapters, which you can use or ignore as you wish. You may post your comments there if you would prefer not to use Twitter. The blog post will be up by noon on Monday.

Thank you so much for being a part of this. Thinking about reading Austen right now makes me feel giddy, and in these times, that is something that I need.

4 thoughts on “Welcome to Northanger Abbey!!!”

  1. Well, oh well. I can’t thank you enough for starting this discussion. I, the self-proclaimed Austen failure, now am warming to her quite a bit and am halfway through NA. Never give up, right? Here’s what’s changed. Rather than keep my eye and ear focused on her characters’ weird doings and chit-chat, I allowed myself ‘into’ the scenes by imagining that some brilliant woman–Austen herself–was standing in all the scenes, unnoticed by all (Oh, omnipotence!), and she had ME by the socially acceptable clutches. She wants a confidante, the reader. She is that invitational, which when you think about it, is required of a comic. Relatability! She wants me to relate to HER perspective. “Hey, check this out. Here is something so worth telling. Isn’t it a gas?! Worried about which muslin to wear! And could he just shut up about his horses? In other words, part of Austen’s brilliance is that she not only comments on society’s nuttiness, foibles, senselessnesses, and prejudices, but she does so by risking herself as the big tattle tale gossip smartypants outsider who WANTS to keep good company with the reader, me. I am flattered. :). I will make specific comments about Chapters 1-3 in a separate post.

    1. What an awesome way to frame this! I agree with you so much. I love Austen’s narrative voice. And I think this is why I feel she is kind and humane even when she is poking at conventions she finds ridiculous. I am so thrilled you like this, Marcia. Great insight!!! (In case it isn’t clear, I’m a little excited to hear you like her.)

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