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Message from the president: "Lovely and Amazing": why the heroines of Jane Austen's world truly are.



JASNA'S delightful and educational 2002 Toronto AGM AGM annual general meeting

AGM n abbr (= annual general meeting) → AG f

AGM n abbr (= annual general meeting) → JHV f 
, "Jane Austen's World," was sandwiched between two minor events in my personal life that, at first view, may seem entirely discrete occurrences and in no way related to Jane Austen. The first event was my reading in The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 Times of October 6th a feature by Tamar Lewin headlined "A New Book, Featuring Another Spineless Woman," which began:
   Oh, where are the heroines of yesteryear? The strong, the virtuous,
   the impeccably competent: Anitgone, Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre.
   And most especially, Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen's model of
   admirable womanhood? ...


It concluded:
   Plenty of books feature tough women detectives, and contemporary
   authors, like Margaret Drabble. Barbara Kingsolver, Jane
   Smiley, and Toni Morrison, have produced a raft of novels with
   complicated heroines, who are neither pathetic nor laughable. But
   they don't resonate like ... Elizabeth Bennet. (section 4, p. 5)


Lewin's article then examines the hapless contemporary literary heroines Bridget Jones, who needs no introduction to you readers, and Kate Reddy of Allison Pearson's Don't Know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 How She Does It, who undermines the 1990's phenomenon of the super mom, able to balance the perfect home, model children, and successful career.

The second event was my seeing the widely admired film "Lovely and Amazing," written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, about a mother (Jane, played by that fine Irish actress Brenda Blethyn, whose appearing in the film made me want to see it in the first place), her two birth daughters (Catherine Keener Catherine Ann Keener (born March 23, 1959)[1] is a two time Academy Award-nominated American actress. Biography
Early life
Keener, the third of five children, was born in Miami, Florida, to Evelyn and Jim Keener, a manager of an automotive store.
 plays the elder, trapped in a marriage-gone-bland, but unable to pull her socks up, so to speak, and Emily Mortimer, as the younger, a wanna wan·na  
Informal
1. Contraction of want to: You wanna go now?

2. Contraction of want a: You wanna slice of pie? 
 be actress, insecure about her body), and her adopted African-American daughter, who despite being insecure about her hair and only about ten years old, turns out to be the person with the best sense of self. I became so irritated by the insecurities, inadequacies, and inanities of the three women characters that I left the film calling it "Lovely But Annoying."

The objects of the two events, reading the newspaper article and seeing the film, are perfectly connected because the former bemoans that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that heroines are now often hapless," which is borne out in the film. But where does Jane Austen come in--other than Lewin's tapping into Jane Austen's much-adapted opening line of Pride and Prejudice and the AGM's being sandwiched between the reading and viewing events?

If I may beg your pardon for turning to the sandwich metaphor (similar to Wentworth's using that nut metaphor, which we all forgive--don't we?), Jane Austen provides the meat. And the 2002 AGM, several talks from which are featured as papers in this issue of Persuasions, helped to remind me once again why.

A woman's life in Jane Austen's world was not all afternoon tea and country balls. Her heroines' lives are not, and neither was Jane Austen's. As the AGM reminded us, women lacked legal and fiscal rights, and they suffered physically with childbearing, anorexia, menopause, and other physical conditions that today's medical knowledge can largely treat. Yet other than Marianne, whom we tolerate because she is seventeen and in love (but she plays the piano extremely well, which must have required much practice), and Emma, whose errors occur in the contexts of misplaced mis·place  
tr.v. mis·placed, mis·plac·ing, mis·plac·es
1.
a. To put into a wrong place: misplace punctuation in a sentence.

b.
 other-directedness and whom many of us love because she truly feels sorry for her errors, and she is extremely patient with and loving to her taxing father, Austen's women do not fall into the hapless and helpless category of most of today's film and novel heroines.

Elinor paints screens, and both she and Marianne are readers; Catherine is practical, good-humored, outdoorsy out·door·sy  
adj. Informal
1. Associated with the outdoors: outdoorsy hobbies such as fishing.

2.
, and "well-read." Ann is patient, better read than Catherine in higher quality literature, a fine pianist, a fluent speaker of Italian--so much so that she can instantaneously translate Italian into perfect English sentences--and smart. Fanny grows into incredible self-possession, reads, quotes poetry, and calmly keeps Lady Bertram in fringe. And then there is Elizabeth Bennet Elizabeth Bennet (sometimes referred to as Eliza or Lizzy) is a fictional character and the protagonist of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. The novel is centered on her attempts to find love and happiness within the society she lives in, particularly , who takes joy in many things: she is even able to leap tall stiles Stiles can refer to: People
  • Bert Stiles, short story writer
  • Charles Wardell Stiles, American zoologist
  • Edgar Stiles, character on the popular drama 24
  • Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College
  • Innis Stiles, singer, musician
 in a single bound.

My point is that Jane Austen's heroines are stronger women than Bridget, Kate, and the women in "Lovely and Amazing" because they do not have the time to indulge in the "victimology vic·tim·ol·o·gy  
n.
The study of crime victims.



victim·olo·gist n.
" that Tamar Lewin observes in the contemporary female characters. When one is doing "work," reading, painting, practicing piano, studying languages, and also facing the difficulties of being a woman in Jane Austen's World--when a woman, unlike in our world, has to rely the kindness of husbands, brothers, or friends--she does not have the time for self-pity. That's why Jane Austen is the meat: her heroines are lovely and amazing.

Presidents of JASNA JASNA Jane Austen Society of North America  

1979-81 J.DAVID David, in the Bible
David, d. c.970 B.C., king of ancient Israel (c.1010–970 B.C.), successor of Saul. The Book of First Samuel introduces him as the youngest of eight sons who is anointed king by Samuel to replace Saul, who had been deemed a failure.
 (JACK) GREY co-founder, New York, NY

1981-84 JOSEPH J. COSTA Nanuet, NY

1984-88 LORRAINE HANAWAY Wayne, PA

1988-92 EILEEN SUTHERLAND Vancouver, BC

1992-96 GARNET BASS Raleigh, NC

1996-2000 ELSA SOLENDER New York, NY

JOAN KLINGEL RAY

Joan Klingel Ray is Professor of English and President's Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado University of Colorado may refer to:
  • University of Colorado at Boulder (flagship campus)
  • University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
  • University of Colorado system
, Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, city (1990 pop. 281,140), seat of El Paso co., central Colo., on Monument and Fountain creeks, at the foot of Pikes Peak; inc. 1886. It is a year-round resort and a booming military, technological, and commercial city. , where she also chairs the Department.
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Author:Ray, Joan Klingel
Publication:Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:850
Previous Article:Annual general meetings of the Jane Austen Society of North America 2003.
Next Article:Editor's note.
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