Read Emma

Emma is a novel about youthful hubris and romantic misunderstandings, written by Jane Austen. It is set in the fictional country village of Highbury and the surrounding estates of Hartfield, Randalls and Donwell Abbey, and involves the relationships among people from a small number of families.[2] The novel was first published in December 1815, with its title page listing a publication date of 1816. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian–Regency England. Emma is a comedy of manners, and depicts issues of marriage, sex, age, and social status.

Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”[3] In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition… had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”[4] Emma is spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.

Emma, written after Austen’s move to Chawton, was her last novel to be published during her lifetime,[5] while Persuasion, the last complete novel Austen wrote, was published posthumously.

I remember reading this is John Wiltshire’s Austen class in university. I remember being humbled at the time in that I thought I knew Jane Austen, without actually reading Jane Austen.

I enjoyed John Mullan’s discussion of why it belongs alongside the works of Flaubert, Joyce and Woolf as one of the great experimental novels. As he explains, we are invited as readers to share Emma’s delusions:

It was revolutionary in its form and technique. Its heroine is a self-deluded young woman with the leisure and power to meddle in the lives of her neighbours. The narrative was radically experimental because it was designed to share her delusions.

Even though we are brought into Emma’s world, the novel is still written in the third-person. This means of placing the reader inside the thoughts of a character has been described as ‘free indirect style’:

It was only in the early 20th century that critics began agreeing on a name for it: free indirect style (a translation from the original French: style indirect libre). It describes the way in which a writer imbues a third-person narration with the habits of thought or expression of a fictional character … Austen miraculously combined the internal and the external.

David Lodge has observed how odd James’s condescension is, given that he came to specialise in the very technique Austen had pioneered: “Telling the story through the consciousness of characters whose understanding of events is partial, mistaken, deceived, or self-deceived.”

Personally, I am fascinated with the idea of taking the idea of ‘dreams’ and ideals in the novel as a thread and reading this alongside psychoanalytic texts, such as Freud’s Ego and the Id. It makes me think about Emma and the whole text being an example of the battle between the ego and the unconsicous. There is a hidden side of the text that is below the surface and can only capture in passing, however the many clues seem strangely obvious after the fact.

I was drawn back to Emma through the Minefield podcast and there investigation of the novel. On Scott Stephens’ recommendation, I actually listened to Juliet Stevenson’s narration of the novel via Libro.fm.

Marginalia

Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best of the fish and the chicken, but leave him to chuse his own wife. Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself.”
Page 46

Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and somebody had lately raised her from the condition of scholar to that of parlour-boarder. This was all that was generally known of her history.
Page 56

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.
Page 118

“I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly.—It depends upon the character of those who handle it. Mr. Knightley, he is not a trifling, silly young man. If he were, he would have done this differently. He would either have gloried in the achievement, or been ashamed of it. There would have been either the ostentation of a coxcomb, or the evasions of a mind too weak to defend its own vanities.—No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling or silly.”
Page 245

Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension. How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness and double-dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child’s play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill’s part.
Page 381

It was just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was—and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding.
Page 391

“It is to be a secret, I conclude,” said he. “These matters are always a secret, till it is found out that every body knows them. Only let me be told when I may speak out.—I wonder whether Jane has any suspicion.”
Page 502

Liked Jane Austen Was Not Fucking Around about Home School by Sarah Allison (Avidly)

Mansfield Park is both Exhibit A of white complicity with racist violence and a demand to recognize it. Fanny Price gets richly rewarded for being a person who kind of gets it. The victory of Fanny, who is introverted, unathletic, and often silent (except for occasional bursts of enthusiasm about nature), affords a different satisfaction from Elizabeth Bennet’s.

Liked https://daily.jstor.org/is-jane-austen-the-antidote-to-social-media-overload/ (daily.jstor.org)

I soon found myself wondering how the inhabitants of Austen’s world put up with this constant pressure to socialize—until I realized that we face just as much demand for interaction, albeit in digital form. Austen’s characters may face a nonstop parade of callers, but at least they don’t have to deal with Facebook friend invitations and an endless series of requests to connect on LinkedIn.

Replied to |k| clippings: 2018-10-21 — the heart nose by Chris Lott (katexic.com)

I’m not surprised by the top three. Are you? → Exclusive: Data Reveals … The Books We Most Often Try To Read But Secretly Give Up On

Interested in the mention of Pride and Prejudice. I remember avoiding Austen for much of my Bachelor of Arts, until I came to my senses and took a class with John Wiltshire which involved reading all her novels.

I feel that their is a bit of myth and (mis)judgement around Austen’s work. One of the best things I did, although I would rather reread Mansfield Park or Emma than Pride and Prejudice.

On another text, I started reading Game of Thrones. Then I watched the show and gave up going back.