Jane Austen vs Feminism

Terry Castle, a professor at Stanford who has written controversially about Austen, muses about the enduring appeal of her novels as stories of “Upwardly-Mobile-Hetero-Girl-Love-Fantasy”: My female students—the ones who claim to be besotted by Austen and her books—tell me that even now, in 2014, they read her and watch the movies not for the social comedy … Continue reading Jane Austen vs Feminism

What If Jane Austen Had Lived Longer?

In a 1924 essay from TNR‘s archives, Virginia Woolf ponders what might have awaited the novelist had she lived past the age of 42: She would have stayed in London, dined out, lunched out, met famous people, made new friends, read, travelled, and carried back to the quiet country cottage a hoard of observations to … Continue reading What If Jane Austen Had Lived Longer?

Notes On Jane Austen, And Vice Versa

The famed author just got some major face-time: [Bank of England governor Mark] Carney’s announcement [that Jane Austen is going on the £10 note] was aimed at quelling a three-month storm of protest unleashed when [former Bank governor Sir Mervyn King] announced that the only woman to appear on an English banknote other than the Queen–the prison … Continue reading Notes On Jane Austen, And Vice Versa

The Jane Austen Internet

Olivia Rosane reviews the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a popular web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice: Watching a story that has survived two centuries play out over new media is an assurance that something of our humanity remains constant between the world of quills and parchment and the world of styluses and screens. We will still … Continue reading The Jane Austen Internet

Jane Austen On The Brain

Interdisciplinary researchers at Stanford, including "neurobiological experts, radiologists and humanities scholars" are conducting experiments on attention and distraction while reading. Participants bring Jane Austen books into an MRI machine, where their brain activity is tracked. The results:

Experiment participants are first asked to leisurely skim a passage as they might do in a bookstore, and then to read more closely, as they would while studying for an exam. [Natalie Phillips, the literary scholar leading the project] said the global increase in blood flow during close reading suggests that "paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions." Blood flow also increased during pleasure reading, but in different areas of the brain. Phillips suggested that each style of reading may create distinct patterns in the brain that are "far more complex than just work and play."

The practical upshot:

Did Jane Austen Die Of Arsenic Poisoning?

A British crime writer proffers a theory to explain Austen's death at 41: [Lindsay Ashford] strengthened her theory when she learned that a lock of Austen's hair bought at an auction in 1948 by a now deceased American couple, had tested positive for arsenic. … She added that it is very likely Austen was given medicines containing arsenic. Indeed, the … Continue reading Did Jane Austen Die Of Arsenic Poisoning?

In A World Of Jane

For her book Among the Janeites, Deborah Yaffe explored the world of hardcore Jane Austen fans. Here she confronts misconceptions about the community: You run across plenty of articles that suggest Janeites are a tea-sipping, cat-hugging group of middle-aged librarians who spend their spare time knitting afghans. (Not that there’s anything wrong with all that.) … Continue reading In A World Of Jane

Will Literature Tear Us Apart?

Nonsense, asserts Zoë Heller, who declares that “[n]othing in my experience suggests that literary taste is a reliable guide to a person’s character, or that shared literary passions bespeak deeper spiritual kinship”: I can see how disagreements about certain works of nonfiction might matter. If I were to come across a dear friend scribbling approving … Continue reading Will Literature Tear Us Apart?