The tiny book Jane Austen Speaks to Women (Edith Lank, 2000) that inspired this month’s readings contains many quotations from the novels and letters of Jane Austen, sometimes advice as above, so Deb and I wondered what other “advice” books were in vogue during Austen’s time.
What was Austen reading when she writes the above? What inspired the spirited reply of Elizabeth to Mr. Collins’ proposal: “Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart” (Chapter 19). Various commentators have pointed out the echo from Mary Wollstonecraft’s: A Vindication of the Rights of Women Chapter 5: “ Speak to them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby strains of condescending endearment! Let them be taught to respect themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for their own insipid persons” (emphasis added). Thus Deb and I thought it would be interesting to look at the Vindication (only pieces from Chapter Five and Ten you’ll be glad to hear) to find other resonances with Austen’s lines about women…. Then after reading Susan Ford’s insightful essay on Fordyce’s Sermons (see Lydia’s reaction to Mr. Collins choosing that edifying treatise… end of Chapter 24…), we asked ourselves:
**“What do these works and Austen speaking to women mean for men and women in the 21st century?” **
Attached are Chapters 5 and 10 from Wollstonecraft [scroll down to view or download in PDF format], and here is the link to Susan Allen’s essay: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol34no1/ford.html, and then some prompts to aid in our discussion that we hope to arrange first in small groups then coming back to the large group… a system that has worked very well in the past.
Some points to ponder (as much or as little depending on time of course).
1) Answer the question above. **
2) Within the small discussion group (we will divide up the large group as smoothly as possible), you will be asked for two quotations from Austen’s works or the letters to aid in the discussion focusing on categories such as Marriage. Money. Old Age. Courtship. Mothers… these categories might help focus the discussion. You won’t know the category assigned to your group until the very moment… just to keep things exciting!
Finally, read the 1950s so-called advice sheet (a fake?) and see how far men and women have come… or not! http://www.snopes.com/history/document/goodwife.asp. For fun, check back to Wollstonecraft’s last paragraph in Chapter 5 in response to Dr. Fordyce…
Deb and I look forward to the discussion! Sunday November 8.