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Laura L. Runge
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Jane Austen: Bits to Bytes

Material Realities and Contexts

Nov 14 Class 13

    Austen: Persuasion
    Critical Reading: Student Annotation

DUE Post #11


    Kelleher annotation discussion - training the picturesque eye
    Finish discussion of Persuasion


"Anne is a Cinderella, with two uncaring sisters and a potential stepmother aptly named Mrs. Clay" (Penny Gay, Cambridge Companion 64).

Last week we discussed the idea that Anne was "too good" in Austen's opinion. In this retelling of the Cinderella tale, we have a delightful cast of evil characters to analyze. Austen's sharp criticism is clearly aimed at the father, Sir Walter Elliot, whom we discussed last week. Are Anne's sisters at fault? If so, in what way? Mr. Walter Elliot qualifies as the cad, but in a very different way than previous cads. How does this moral characterization differ?

How do you characterize Lady Russell, the closest character to a mother-figure in the novel? What about the childhood friend, Mrs. Smith? If Anne is too good, how does Austen construct the other female characters of the novel?

Anne's growth through the novel, then, is less moral than physical -- as the novel moves through fall and winter to spring, she blooms again. Parallel to this is Anne's ability to articulate her desire through language. How does this change in the novel?

Anne expresses her love for Wentworth indirectly in the discussion with Captain Harville on the relative strengths of women's versus men's love (Chap XXIII. 164). Examine the claims made by each party. What role do "authors" play in determining the validity of their claims?

"All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone" (166).

Again, indirectly, Wentworth expresses his love for Anne through a letter. Evaluate the letter p. 167. Is this, perhaps, the evidence for the general understanding that Wentworth is the most romantic of Austen's heroes? How does the letter form contribute to the passion described?

Persuasion is the only novel for which we have a draft version, and the two final canceled chapters are available in the back of the NCE. (Alternatively Penny Gay provides a summary of the difference on pp. 67-68). Consider the two endings and what is achieved by them. Did Austen make the better choice? Why or why not?

Is there a moral to Persuasion? If so, how does it compare with that of Emma, the closest in terms of craft and chronology?

Return to the idea of Austen's minimalism, her focus on two or three families in the country, and in particular to the ironic comment she made to her brother about "the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour" (quoted by Spacks in preface to NCE viii). Does this apply equally to Persuasion? In what sense is her artistry like the miniature portrait painter? In what sense does it exceed the little bit of Ivory? What is true about her irony and what is patently false?

With Persuasion we reach the end of Austen's complete novels. How does it feel to have read all the novels of Austen?

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