Jane Austen: Bits to Bytes
Material Realities and Contexts
Nov 7 Class 12
DUE Post #10
Critical Reading: Theodosiou Annotation
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Theodosiou annotation discussion
Evaluate the opening of the novel: "Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took
up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into
admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from
domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt." Given the importance of openings in novels, what do we learn of significance
here? Given the importance of reading in Austen, what is the significance of Sir Walter's reading material?
Be sure to look up fuller definitions of the terms of lineage and heraldry that are unfamiliar to you. What does it usually mean when an author
introduces her work with a direct quotation or allusion to another book? How does such allusion function here? Can you do a close reading
of the passage from the Baronetage?
Given the importance of openings for setting narrative tone, how do the opening paragraphs of Persuasion establish tone? What is
the overall tone of this novel and how do you know? Persuasion was written during Jane Austen's final illness and completed within a year of her
death. Some critics (see Spacks' preface to the new NCE) read a melancholy tone here unlike any of Austen's previous novels. Do you
agree? Is there a narrative connection to mortality in Persuasion that contributes to melancholy?
In Chapter VIII, the narrator adeptly maneuvers a group conversation conveying multiple layers of understanding. Evaluate the movement. Then
appreciate the eruption of the cynical voice that surfaces from time to time in this novel: "They [Anne and Frederick] were actually on the same sofa, for Mrs. Musgrove had most readily
made room for him; -- they were divided only by Mrs. Musgrove. It was no insignificant barrier indeed. Mrs. Musgrove was of a comfortable
size, infinitely more fitted by nature to express good cheer and good humour, than tenderness and sentiment; and while the agitations of Anne's
slender form, and pensive face, may be considered as very completely screened, Captain Wentworth should be allowed some credit for the self-command
with which he attended to her large fat sighings over the destiny of a son, whom alive nobody had cared for" (49).
In chapter 10, the group from Uppercross with Captain Wentworth go for walk on a beautiful November day, which stimulates Anne's memory of "some few of the thousand poetical
descriptions extant of autumn" (60). The passage lyrically engages with poetical conventions, making Anne perhaps the most poetic of
Austen heroines (compare Marianne?). Examine the multiple narrative points that engage with poetry, in particular the discussions between
Benwick and Anne in Lyme, and the role of poetry in romance. Is this novel Austen's most "R"omantic? What role does poetry play?
Persuasion is the only novel of Austen's to be given a specific narrative date. The action of the novel takes place in 1814, though
the pre-story occurs eight years earlier. Personal stories throughout (Wentworth offers many personal narratives -- does that make him suspicious
like Willoughby?) that often have specific dates -- back in 06 he was on the Asp. The navy-list, like the Baronetage, is filled with dates. Why is
the novel preoccupied by time? As a plot, it is unique in being placed as a second story, a second chance, a second half of a romance. What
effect does the precision of historical time have in this novel?
In addition to theme, the date of 1814 is important historically as the date of the initial defeat of Napoleon and the return of the soldiers. How
do external political and social events impact the world of the novel? What role does the Royal Navy play here and how does it differ from
previous novels? Compare, for example, Mansfield Park as discussed in Paula Byrne's chapter "The Topaz Crosses."
Focus on Anne: "How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been, -- how eloquent, at least were her wishes on the side of early warm
attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence! -- She
had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older -- the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning" (23).
How is she different as a heroine? Whom is she most like and why? What particular lessons does Anne have to learn in her
plot? How closely is the narrative aligned with Anne? Austen found the character almost too good. In what ways is Anne too good? Does
she have to learn to be bad? Explain her journey.
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