Response Questions #1 (due Friday by 5pm)
This week’s readings: CAOW, “Love and Friendship” and “Lesley Castle”
Choose ONE of the following to respond to in a 1-2 page response (double spaced). Since you have all week to do this, put some thought into it and don’t just give me an answer. Explain why you read the story as you do and offer support from the text. A good answer should have some element of a ‘close reading,’ which examines a short passage from the book and ‘reads’ it from your perspective. Don’t assume that everyone sees the same passage or ideas as you do—help us see your reading. Other than that, go wherever the question takes you.
1. Based on these two works (one finished, one probably unfinished), what kind of woman was the young Austen? If we can glean character, ideals, values, and eccentricities from a literary work, what do these stories say about the woman behind them? Additionally, how might these works contradict the portrait her brother, Henry, wrote about her to preface her posthumously published works? Remember he praised her modesty, sincerity, and abhorrence for anything “vulgar.”
2. Why do you think Austen gravitated to the epistolary novel (or in this case, story) in her early career? What did it allow her to reveal about her characters and/or satirize about the world around her? Would these stories make as much sense—or be as outrageously funny—if we took out the back-and-forth letters?
3. Somewhat similar to the question above, what do you feel are the limitations of the epistolary novel? What directions does it not allow Austen to move in? Is she aware of this? Do we ever get the feeling that she’s metaphorically panting herself into a corner? Related to this, why do you think she might have abandoned the form for her later works?
4. Jane Austen was a notable defender of the novel as a literary form, writing in the early novel Northanger Abbey that although “our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.” Yet in “Love and Friendship” in particular, she seems to be satirizing the girls’ love of novels and the values they instill. Why does she implicate novels in her satire, and what might be her overall message in doing so? You might consider the works they read (only one or two are mentioned) and the lingo they pick up from them, notably “sensibility.”