People nowadays don’t even know what a real affair is. A real affair is being condemned by the Vatican.
Name: Don't Forget Me
Artist: Neko Case
Album: Middle Cyclone
on Jane Austen’s brand of sentimental education.
Les invisibles en tête-à-tête, from the series Le Supreme Bon Ton, No. 16, artist unknown; published by Martinet, Paris, c. 1810-1815 with thanks to Two Nerdy History Girls
Rachel M. Brownstein
Why Jane Austen?
Columbia University Press, 2011. 320 pp.
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter
The Penguin Press, 2011. 257 pp.
When V.S. Naipaul picked a fight with women writers in an interview earlier this year, citing a “narrow view of the world” as the source of female inferiority, he scorned Jane Austen for “her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world,” declaring that no woman, not even Austen, was his literary equal. “A woman,” he said, “is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing.” Women at best produce “feminine tosh.”
If Naipaul’s goal in putting down women writers was to get attention, he couldn’t have picked a better target than Jane Austen. In fact, it’s hard to imagine any other woman whose disparagement would have garnered so much notice. In a word-association game, if I say “woman author,” odds are the first name in your head would be that of the creator of Pride and Prejudice. It’s worth noting that when I tried to talk to one of my nonliterary friends about Naipaul’s remarks, his immediate response was “Who’s V.S. Naipaul?” Nobody ever says, “Who’s Jane Austen?”