Friday, July 3, 2009

31. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Over the summer, I'm taking a Major Figure course on Jane Austen. The original plan was to read all six novels, but we decided to drop Mansfield Park. I've read all of the novels before, and with the exception of Emma, which I have read once or possibly twice, I've read them all too many times to count.

I finished S&S again yesterday. I actually had a very different reaction to the novel than I've had before. Elinor, the representative of Sense, was always my favorite, but now I really appreciate the Sensibility of her sister Marianne. Austen used 'sensibility' in a very particular sense. To her, it meant an emotional and intuitive intelligence, including taste, culture, and feeling. This use of the word was evident to me from the first without having it outwardly explained, but some people seem to need the explanation. It is, however, not the meaning most people would currently associate with the word. In fact, we use sense and sensibility interchangeably.

Particularly reading Austen, I realize the extent of my literary snobbery. I am very comfortable with the material, and don't really understand when other people find it difficult. I have found different layers of meaning in subsequent readings, but I never struggled with the story or the language overmuch (I do remember learning the meaning of 'sanguine' from reading S&S). Is it really so weird or uncommon to feel this way? Is this an okay sentiment to express to the class? I feel it is not, because others have expressed such problems, but I also feel like their problems are detrimental to the erudite discussions that I want out of the class.

Oh well. It's still very interesting. So, you will be seeing plenty of Austen reviews here for the next month or so. And perhaps a larger overall review at the end.

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