Het Ondeugende Intellect Van Jane Austen


Of ze nu kibbelende gezinnen, stille liefdesverklaringen of sappige roddels beschrijft, Jane Austens teksten geven vaak het gevoel dat het alleen voor jou geschreven is. Haar droge humor en brutale speelsheid brengt haar heldinnen op de hoogte, wier gesprekstoon de lezers verwelkomt met een samenzweerderige knipoog. Iseult Gillespie onderzoekt de sluwe maatschappelijke satire en de unieke tongue-in-cheek humor van Jane Austen.

Whether she’s describing bickering families, quiet declarations of love, or juicy gossip, Jane Austen’s writing often feels as though it was written just for you. Her dry wit and cheeky playfulness informs her heroines, whose conversational tone welcomes readers with a conspiratorial wink. It’s even been said that some readers feel like the author’s secret confidante, trading letters with their delightfully wicked friend Jane. But this unique brand of tongue-in-cheek humor is just one of the many feats found in her sly satires of society, civility, and sweeping romance.

Written in the early nineteenth century, Austen's novels decode the sheltered lives of the upper classes in rural England. From resentment couched in pleasantries to arguing that masks attraction, her work explores the bewildering collision of emotions and etiquette.

But while romance is a common thread in her work, Austen dismissed the sentimental style of writing so popular at the time. Instead of lofty love stories, her characters act naturally, and often awkwardly. They trade pragmatic advice, friendly jokes and not-so-friendly barbs about their arrogant peers. As they grapple with the endless rules of their society, Austen’s characters can usually find humor in all the hypocrisy, propriety, and small talk. As Mr. Bennet jokes to his favorite daughter, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?”

And though her heroines might ridicule senseless social mores, Austen fully understood the practical importance of maintaining appearances. At the time she was writing, a wealthy marriage was a financial necessity for most young women, and she often explores the tension between the mythical quest for love, and the economic benefits of making a match. The savvy socialite Mary Crawford sums this up in "Mansfield Park;" “I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly: I do not like to have people throw themselves away.”

Unsurprisingly, these themes were also present in Austen’s personal life. Born in 1775, she lived in the social circles found in her novels. Jane's parents supported her education, and provided space for her to write and publish her work anonymously. But writing was hardly lucrative work. And although she had sparks of chemistry, she never married.

Elements of her circumstances can be found in many of her characters; often intelligent women with witty, pragmatic personalities, and rich inner lives. These headstrong heroines provide an entertaining anchor for their tumultuous romantic narratives. Like the irreverent Elizabeth Bennet of "Pride and Prejudice," whose devotion to her sisters’ love lives blinds her to a clumsy suitor. Or the iron-willed Anne Elliot of "Persuasion," who chooses to remain unmarried after the disappearance of her first love. And Elinor Dashwood, who fiercely protects her family at the cost of her own desires in "Sense and Sensibility." These women all encounter difficult choices about romantic, filial, and financial stability, and they resolve them without sacrificing their values– or their sense of humor.

Of course, these characters are far from perfect. They often think they have all the answers. And by telling the story from their perspective, Austen tricks the viewer into believing their heroine knows best– only to pull the rug out from under the protagonist and the reader. In "Emma," the titular character feels surrounded by dull neighbors, and friends who can’t hope to match her wit. As her guests prattle on and on about nothing, the reader begins to agree– Emma is the only exciting character in this quiet neighborhood. Yet despite her swelling ego, Emma may not be as in control as she thinks – in life or love. And Austen’s intimate use of perspective makes these revelations doubly surprising, blindsiding both Emma and her audience.

But rather than diminishing her host of heroines, these flaws only confirm “the inconsistency of all human characters.” Their complexity has kept Austen prominent on stage and screen, and made her work easily adaptable for modern sensibilities. So hopefully, new readers will continue to find a friend in Ms. Austen for many years to come.


Bron: TED.com
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