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The Universal Appeal of Jane Austen

May 16, AD2018 0 Comments

Celebrated Worldwide, Beloved By Millions: Jane Is Everywhere

The Jane Austen Circle of Singapore regularly hosts Regency balls and teas at the Old Parliament Arts House. Membership consists largely of octogenarians and nonagenarians— several of them are youngsters, not yet fifty years old

You can attend an Austen Festival at the following locations: Bath, England; Canberra Australia; Louisville, Kentucky; and Xochimilco, Mexico City. There is a Jane Austen Society of Pakistan. You can join a Jane Austen Society in  New Zealand,  Great Britain, North America,  Vancouver,  The Netherlands, Australia, Florence Italy, Sweden, Argentina… .the list goes on . . . and on!

Current and recent editions, adaptations, interpretations, versions, and presentations of her writings are available in every medium – books, plays, television series, internet audios and videos, and movies. Her works are also the subject of an unending stream of even more studies, theses, articles, and commentaries. Tens of millions of her books in print, translated in various languages across the globe.

The fact that so many, including some serious scholars, refer to her as “Jane,” or even “our Jane,” is another testament to her celebrity, skill, genius, and insight. Stalwart Jane aficionados even lovingly call themselves “Janeites.”

When one begins to read one of her stories, it is difficult to study it, because one begins to smile. As you turn the pages her writing prompts laughter, wonder, and readers simply enjoy the ride.  Many, periodically rereading the novels, take the same ride again and again.

Jane’s small amount of her writings pique so much interest, yet this is a testament to the power of her written words.  Many say her novels, only six completed ones, are among the finest in all of English literature; some even say they are the best worldwide!

Answers

This long-dead lady and her writing are appreciated, enjoyed, accepted, and almost ubiquitously beloved.  Why?

Answers to these questions have included the following:

Due to her creating spunky female characters.

For the reason, she created strong heroines who spoke truth with power.

Because she was intelligent, intuitive, and so ironic.

Due to the wonderful character development of Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Because if Jane was alive today, she would have voted for Brexit, she would have voted against Brexit, she would be pro-immigration, she would be anti-immigration.  She would be a pro-abortion feminist; a conservative; a cultural Marxist; a tree-hugging environmentalist; a liberal;  a pro-life champion; an advocate for the new world order; a nationalist; a pioneer against human trafficking . . . and  . . . . this list, too, goes on and on.

Often her greatness is proven in terms of “she would have been one of us,” whatever smart, sensitive, progressive, compassionate, conservative, liberal, empathetic, revolutionary, orthodox, or romantic folks are included in “us.”

Whatever your preferred answer to loving Jane it is important to reflect on her writing and life. This alone provides the answer. Jane left behind wonderful novels and the simplicity of her life helps provide some answers to her great appeal.

About Jane

Reportedly born a month late in 1775 A.D., she died in 1817 A.D. During her relatively short life, Jane never gained notoriety. Reporters did not interview her and she had almost no contact with other writers. She visited London, lived in several villages and towns, and traveled within southern England—never going far from home.

Virtually unknown during her lifetime, Jane’s name did not appear on her first published books. The world of her stories is incredibly limited and severely circumscribed, especially compared to novels written by her contemporaries. She writes about a world, which in her own words is the world of “Three or four families in a country village.” What is that world? It is this world that is universally acknowledged.

The Answer – Reality & Undeniable Human Nature

The logic of the philosopher, theologian, and logician does not allow one to go from “it is almost absolutely acknowledged” to “it is true.” The words “it is logically certain” and “it has been proven scientifically” are not statements about what is really real. Jane’s reality is not so limited.

The world of Austen is the real world, the world of real human persons rooted in real families with real care and real love. In the manner in which she presents and proclaims it, and yes, even at times implicitly preaches it, this world is the answer to the question of why Jane is [almost] universally acknowledged.

Austen’s writing provides much more than subtle hints about the reality of her world.  Reality universally acknowledged, which is her reality, can be found in the truths in every story she tells the truths about women, men, marriage, love, family, morality, and God.

Marriage

According to Jane, “Marriage is not simply a marriage of romance, a marriage of money, a marriage of expediency, a marriage for status, a no-other-options marriage, or a marriage of “sensibility.” Jane implicitly finds fault with all such marriages. The idea of marriage is the joining of two unselfish people whose goal is the happiness of the other. The husband’s goal and raison d’etre is the wife’s happiness, and vice-versa.”

(Further discussion at http://www.catholicstand.com/jane-austens-morality-marriage/)

Morality of Love

There was a generally accepted familial, communal, and societal code of conduct—a morality—which embodied universally acknowledged moral truths. Its basis was the intrinsic value of all persons. . . . With her paradigm of family, with families as the basis of home, community, and society, for Jane it is no surprise that morality is the loving glue that binds people together; binds them to act so as to value and further the happiness of others.

(Further discussion at http://www.catholicstand.com/jane-austens-morality-marriage/)

Family – the Jane Paradigm

Just as every scientific fact depends for its reality upon the underlying theory that it supports, the scientific “paradigm” that gives it meaning, the family is the overarching paradigm the work of Jane Austen. The “Jane Paradigm” is a paradigm of goodness—the model of family as Gospel.

(Further discussion at http://www.catholicstand.com/jane-austens-paradigm-family-gospel/) 

Prayer 

Austen prayed daily and actually composed some prayers herself. All of Jane’s prayers are family prayers. Her family thanked God for “domestic comfort.” They sought His care for “our own family.”

(Further discussion: http://www.catholicstand.com/jane-austen-prays/)

God

Jane’s writings and writings of others provide some clues about Jane’s beliefs because her religion was part of her.  Why? Because everything she wrote she penned against the subtle background of her religion. It was the canvas on which she pictured life and the base of the paints and pastels she used; it was the waters of the sea in which her masterpiece ships sailed; the unspoken calm amidst storms which often tossed her characters about; and it was the life-giving spirit-inspiring air breathed by her wholly real characters. Religion formed the core of her reality. It was the source of the way according to which she lived her life.

(Please refer to the following links for further discussion: http://www.catholicstand.com/theology-jane-austen-part/ and http://www.catholicstand.com/theology-jane-austen-part-ii/)

The Living, Loving Force Of Family

What Jane’s works and their wide acceptance across cultures, across time, and across the world show is that there is human nature, there are men and women, there is happy marriage within core families, and there are extended families in which loving people, across generations,  live and thrive, are born, and die. Anyone who has experienced a good and happy family can tell you there is something almost indescribable and mystical about being present in one. There seems to exists a family “force field” that encompasses, recognizes, energizes, protects, draws, and nourishes each family member.

This family force is in each of Jane’s novels, and very prominently in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  It is evident in the ending of all six of her completed, published novels – each ending in a happy union (or two) of young men and women who will prolong and prosper the family.

 Y’all Come On In and Set a Spell

As a young girl, Jane included her family in the production of her writings.  They served as the audience and the “editors” who read and reviewed her work. She regularly read parts of her writing to her family— eager not only to entertain them but also to hear their responses, suggestions, critiques – and praise.

Jane’s genius is that, without a formal invitation, she beckons and invites the reader to “join” her and, with her, become a member of the family she is creating.  The literary tractor beam she creates subtly and comfortably draws the reader in. She makes the reader a sister, a brother, a close cousin.    She engages you in the story and you become much more than a casual observer. Our Jane says, “Make yourself at home.”  You become a Bennett, a Dashwood, a Woodhouse, an Austen.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Guy McClung lives with his wife of 44+ years south of Houston, Texas helping inventors develop and patent their inventions. Following two stints in the seminary with the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, total 5 years (for which he is truly and forever thankful), he came to the realization that God was not calling him to that type of vowed obedience; so he left the seminary and got married. Seven children and eleven grandchildren later, he decided to try to write some words that would convey his thanks to God almighty for blessing after blessing after blessing.

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