Jane Austen Aficionados

Jane Austen Aficionados

 

No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the after women went about looking for their brains.

G. K. Chesterton

This is the place to enjoy Jane Austen – to savor her works, find new works written in homage to her style and characters as well as those inspired by her. Is she worthy of this adoration and the mass market that, 200 years later, still grows around her works? Is she really “all that and a bag of chips?” Unknown-2

I contend she is – and you might too if you’re here with us. (And thank you for that…) I don’t know if we’ll ever plumb the depths of her brilliance, but we’ll certainly relish the journey. And while G. K. Chesterton may have judged the rest of us a bit harshly, he’s got a point – No one wrote like Miss Austen. And she wrote small. She didn’t dazzle us with tombs (big books or lots of deaths and graves) or adventures crossing continents, great mysteries, or international intrigue. Her characters stayed in their villages – or complained about a fifty-mile carriage ride to another – and in those places, men and women moved through kitchens, ballrooms and life. And yet, we were and still are captivated. We’re captivated because in that “small,” Austen pinned down human nature and motivation as succinctly and clearly as Gaskell’s Roger Hamley skewered bugs to a board (Wives and Daughters). We adore her characters because they are real – after all, human nature and motivation hasn’t changed in 200 years – just the way we dress it.

I got to examine a bit of the Austen phenomenon while I was writing my proposal for Dear Mr. Knightley and I stumbled across this study you might find interesting…

 

dear mr knightley iconThis is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes

Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they’re reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.”

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/austen-reading-fmri-090712.html

 

We already knew this, didn’t we? But now it’s becoming proven. These Stanford researchers expected to see pleasure centers activated for the relaxed reading and hypothesized that close reading, as a form of heightened attention, would create more neural activity than pleasure reading. So they chose Jane Austen’s works. And they found that reading Austen “could serve – quite literally – as a kind of cognitive training, teaching us to modulate our concentration and use new brain regions as we move flexibly between modes of focus.”

Although the field of literary neuroscience is still young, the researchers said this project can “give us a bigger, richer picture of how our minds engage with art – or, in our case, of the complex experience we know as literary reading.”

Thank you, Jane!

So read enjoy Austen! She’s good for you. And again – welcome to Austen Authors! We’re delighted to share the fun!

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25 Responses to Jane Austen Aficionados

  1. “human nature and motivation hasn’t changed in 200 years – just the way we dress it.” I LOVE this line! It is a fact I harp on quite a bit. Indeed in times past there was far more common sense, intelligence, and proper manners than today. But, humans have always been human. They just managed to control the baser instincts better!

    Yes, we love Jane Austen hereabouts! I’m all for those heavy tombs/tomes, and adore an action filled sci-fi or fantasy. I admit to enjoying a romance replete with heaving bosoms and dramatic conflict around every corner. Yet there is something amazing about a whole book in which little in the way of “action” really happens, and the conflicts could be overcome with a simple conversation, but the reader is riveted all the same. Brilliant!

    We are SO glad you are with us, Katherine. 🙂

  2. Two thumbs up for Stanford University and for you, Katherine. I never thought of her writing as small in the sense of how she encapsulates her characters in tight settings. Yet, thinking about it, that’s exactly what she did. It created greater interactions between characters and I am now rethinking her different books in that light. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • That is, in part, why I go back to her again and again. She nails the human experience over and over and by not moving her characters around (and dazzling us with huge and sweeping action or scene) we go deeper within them — and she’s still on point. Such fun really! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thanks for this post! Well, now we have proof how great Jane is for us! I also really liked your point that Austen wrote “small.” I read a summary somewhere that said Austen showed us the journey of self-discovery was just as powerful when done in a drawing-room as when you’re traveling the world like Odysseus. Or something like that. 🙂

  4. My wife is a voracious reader. She devoured Lord of the Rings at age 11 and during our 30 years of marriage I have never known her to not have a book in her hand.
    She devoured fantasy from Eddings to Anne McCaffrey among all the rest. During the Lord of the Rings movie she nudged me and said they didnt go east right there they really went west. Then came Jane Austen. . That now has been her passion since 2005. Im glad they dont have time machines because she would be there most the time Im sure. I do believe avid readers often make good writers because they are so acquainted with the craft from the other end.

    • I love this comment, what a nice man you sound like…yes, build her the time machine and enjoy the time being her Mr. Darcy…what joy you and she would find exploring those times and journey together for another 30 years…

  5. So, reading Jane Austen is good for you! Must tell my husband that. Usually, I get a “Oh no, not again!” from him, and our son.

    Thanks for such an informative post.

  6. I have to say that since reading Jane Austen’s work, a whole new world has opened. She gave me a thirst for reading and expanding my mind. Thank you Jane, for opening the door for me.

  7. I remember this study coming around a while ago and I thought it was really cool! It was one of those moments when I brushed the dust off my shoulder and smiled to myself. Thanks for sharing!

  8. As today celebrates the first publication of Pride and Prejudice, it is only apropos to extoll the genius of Jane Austen. Thanks for the reminder (actually I read the article some time ago, but it was good to refresh my memory…he,he, he, especially at my age.) We are glad you are among us, Katherine.

  9. Thanks all for being here. There is another study you’d love… I need to find it because simply mentioning it isn’t enough — but I will anyway. It basically states that she is the most influential writer for North American writers when you break down our writing on a variety of levels — sentence structure, syntax, grammar, etc. I’ll dig it up and share it soon. In the meantime — keep enjoying JA. 🙂

  10. Who knew! Well, I knew I loved her books and they keep me entertained, I had no idea why. Thanks for sharing Katherine.

  11. Katherine this was fascinating! I love that reading JA increases O2 to the brain and since I already know that the Mozart Effect increases intelligence I’m practically ready to rock and roll – brainwise, that is. Thanks for sharing the article. Jen Red

  12. Thank you for sharing this information. I have seen and read this before and found it interesting, I had forgotten about it, so it was nice to read it again. It is interesting to find that concentrated reading and pleasure reading affect different areas of the brain.

  13. Thanks for a lovely post, Katherine!
    I remember the study you mention, you must have shared it at the time. I
    t’s nice to see that the Stanford guys have quantified something we knew deep down ever since we first picked up one of her novels!

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