Classic Remarks Friday: Jane Austen – Fluff or Canon?

Classic Remarks is a classic literature meme hosted by Pages Unbound. Questions/discussions are posted on Fridays, and this week I’ve decided to participate in the meme!

This week’s question is:

Some argue Jane Austen writes “fluff” and others argue she belongs in the canon because she writes witty social commentary.  Do you think Austen belongs in the canon? Why or why not?

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 And my answer?

Jane Austen absolutely, positively belongs in the canon.

 Without question.

 And here are my reasons why.

Her books have classic plotlines. From Elizabeth and Darcy’s hate-to-love relationship in Pride and Prejudice, to Marianne’s falling for the bad boy in Sense and Sensibility, you’ve got the meddling matchmaker who messes everything up in Emma, the active imagination in Northanger Abbey, and the long-suffering love in Persuasion.

You may have noticed that I skipped Mansfield Park. That is because I can’t recall anything about it. I’ve read it, but did not like it, and it is by far my least favorite of Austen’s novels. So because I can’t really remember it, I’m not going to discuss it here. But it certainly was not “fluff”.

There are many plots that can be traced back to Jane Austen. I’d argue that any romantic comedy that starts out with the couple fighting and disliking each other at first sight can be directly tied to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is, in my opinion, the best enemies-to-lovers book ever written. It’s simply classic. Rich, arrogant man insults poor, headstrong woman? Love is born, and in such a short phrase: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Oh and then Darcy continues on with this gem, “I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” And then once Darcy realizes that he is in love with Elizabeth and goes about with the rudest declaration of marriage ever? Her scathing response is a classic, and one I would love to be able to utter someday. Here’s the last line of her response: “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” OUCH.

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The tagline is hilarious on this edition. “Mom’s fishing for husbands – But the girls are hunting for love…”

Jane Austen’s writing is witty, sharp, and elegant. I can’t explain it better than Jane herself, so here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • “Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.” – Sense and Sensibility

  • “The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!” – Sense and Sensibility

  • “I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.” – Emma

  • “Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.” – Emma

  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice

  • “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” – Pride and Prejudice

  • “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Pride and Prejudice

  • “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” – Persuasion

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Her works are still discussed and are relevant in today’s world. Falling in love with your best friend? It’s in an Austen book. Left penniless and heartbroken? It’s there. Did you dump the love of your life because your friend told you to and now you regret it? Oh yeah. In there. Have a sister who is your complete opposite? Have an annoying friend who is secretly engaged to your love? Chosen money over love? Is your mother trying to marry you off? Do you have embarrassing family members? A scheming sister-in-law? Annoying neighbors? Ever read a scary story and had your imagination run wild? Have you tried to set your friend up just to have the guy fall for you? Just change the setting and the outfits, and you’ve got sparkling commentary on love and life that is relevant to today. Just ask Cher Horowitz from Clueless (in case you didn’t know, Clueless is a modern retelling of Austen’s Emma).

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There are many more reasons why Jane Austen belongs in the canon of classic literature; I’ve just mentioned a few here. Do you like Jane Austen? Or are you baffled by the older language and phrasing she uses? Do you find her dry and boring, or lively and fascinating? Which is your favorite Austen? Your least favorite? Do tell!! My book club read Sense and Sensibility this summer, and I was really surprised by our discussion earlier this month and how many in the club did not care for Austen’s writing style, but had deep respect for it and her plots. What do you think? Tell me!

And for the record, my favorite Jane Austen work is Persuasion and my least favorite is Mansfield Park. My favorite of Austen’s female characters is Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and my favorite Austen man is Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility.

 

 

 


52 thoughts on “Classic Remarks Friday: Jane Austen – Fluff or Canon?

  1. I completely agree with you. Jane Austen’s novels are still relevant today and stand the test of time for a reason. I think everyone can relate to at least one of them. I had no idea that Clueless was a retelling of Emma. I love that movie. How did I not know that? I just watched it again for the millionth time last night. How funny. I also agree with you on Persuasion. That’s my favorite, too. 🙂

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    1. The way Clueless was done was so clever! There are changes, like instead of the dad in Emma being a health nut / hypochondriac, in Clueless he insists on eating junk food, but it still captures the essence of Emma, and is just so good. It’s funny to read Emma and watch Clueless and see all the similarities/differences.
      🙂 Yay another Persuasion fan! I know a lot of people have trouble with that book, but I adore it.

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      1. I never noticed that at all. There’s so many modern retellings that I draw comparisons to but don’t always figure it out until someone tells me why it feels familiar. That’s so cool now that I know that cause I’ve loved Clueless since it came out way back when. Persuasion was the first Austen book I read. I like those hard to read classics like The Iliad, so I think it’s easier for me to get into them. I’m also a fan of The Canterbury Tales. Most people have trouble with that one, too.

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        1. Ooh I haven’t read The Canterbury Tales. I know nothing about it, but it’s one of those titles that makes me cringe when I hear it.
          My copy of The Iliad arrived today and my word that book is huge!

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          1. The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English so it’s not for everyone. I was hesitant at first but I love Chaucer. If you like Shakespeare, you’ll like Chaucer. His brilliance shines through. I went on a bit of a classics binge in college. The Iliad was so good I had to read anything considered a classic at the time. Oh yeah it’s over 800 pages. It’s a real beast but it’s brilliantly written. I still can’t believe I’ve managed to read it six times already. I finished The Song of Achilles and wow, just wow! I am so impressed. And it did the original so much justice. My review for next week is beyond a rave review. 🙂 I had no words for over an hour after I finished the book. I just kept saying wow.

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            1. 6 times is a LOT! Wow! I think I’m really going to love it.
              Oh I’m so glad you loved The Song of Achilles. 🙂 I have a feeling I’ll be rereading it once I read The Iliad and rewatch Troy (if time permits).
              Finally we got a good book for the goodreads group!

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              1. I hope you like it. I fell in love with it when I read it 15 years ago, and it’s still my favorite book. Achilles was such a good book. For once, I like the Hype or Like Friday book. 🤗 I was starting to wonder if I ever would. I was thinking either Daughter of Smoke and Bone or A Darker Shade of Magic for next month’s book. Do you have any suggestions?

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                1. Either of those books works for me! I’ve actually already got A Darker Shade of Magic, but haven’t read it yet, so would probably lean more towards that one.
                  Or we could read what everyone will be reading and posting about in August: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. That might give us two good books in a row… 🙂

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                  1. Yeah, I think we should go with a Darker Shade Magic. We both have it and I’ve planned to read it for a while. Harry Potter is a good one, too. I’m glad I finally found one good book. I honestly think all these bad books practically killed Hype or Like. ADSOM will attract people’s attention so that’s a good one to read for August. We could read HP in September. 🙂

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                    1. Darker Shade of Magic sounds good. A lot of people really like it! I hope I like it and it isn’t a dud like Raven Boys was.
                      HP in September is a great idea and gives people time to get it.

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                    2. I haven’t read a single bad review for it. That’s a good thing. I hope. The magic system and the different versions of London sound really cool. The Raven Boys is a dud for me as well. I made it up to 35%, I think, before I had enough. There’s people who love the series, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of them. Yeah, I like the idea of reading HP for September, and knowing what books we’re reading now saves us wasted time with polling the group and all that nonsense. I’m just going to advertise both of them as the books along with the discussion topics for both months. Do you have any topics you’d like to add for the weekly posts? I’m thinking we should do one that’s HP related in September. That would be fun.

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                    3. Sounds like a good plan to just use them instead of polling.
                      Hmm …. maybe for HP we could do our favorite book of the series and why? or favorite characters of the series? Even favorite scenes. Or least favorite scenes. There are a lot to choose from and then hopefully the posts would be varied and not all be about Hermione 🙂
                      I have high hopes for Darker Shade of Magic. Hope it lives up to the hype!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Yeah, maybe we could do a Harry Potter theme for the entire month and then the review at the end since the release is such a big deal. Yeah, I like favorite scenes, characters, and books. I like all your ideas. That’s what we’ll go with. 😊 That’s so true. Everyone says Hermione. She’s my favorite, too. She reminds me of myself. I also have high hopes. Fingers crossed it’s as good as The Song of Achilles. That book was so amazing. 🤗

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                    5. Yeah, I think people like reading HP posts cause everyone loves it and has read it. We have a tag? I must’ve missed it. My pingbacks aren’t working anymore. I did one a few months ago that had the spells. Is that the one you’re talking about?

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  2. *whispers* I haven’t actually read anything by Austen. Which is why Krysta had to answer the question for our blog. :p

    I do know enough about her, however, to think she does belong in the canon, and you give some great reasons. I also really like the quotes you picked out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, she certainly belongs in the canon for sure!
      Ha ha … did the quotes entice you to pick up an Austen book? 🙂 It’s always a good time to start reading Jane!
      Now that I did this post I kind of want to do a reread of them all. So many books, so little time!

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      1. I have such a long TBR list I don’t even know when I’ll get there! The issue is that I’ve seen many Austen movies, so I actually feel compelled to read books I know less about. :p I feel you with all the books! So overwhelming!

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  3. I’ve read Northanger Abbey and Emma, and have to say that neither held much interest for me in either content or form. I’m just not a fan of the long descriptions and action (and I’m a fan of Tolkien, so take that as you will) that adds little to nothing in between the dialogue. Do I think she is relevant? Absolutely. Should people read her, or at least be exposed? Of course. That’s how you find what you like or dislike. I read Hemingway and Austen and found that I didn’t care for either of them, and that’s okay. Both have relevancy whether or not I personally could identify with the characters or the writing style. So should Austen be canon? Yes; just don’t expect me to read her.

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    1. I enjoy both Northanger Abbey and Emma. Some say that Emma is Austen’s most perfect book, which has always baffled me a bit as I find it overly long. I need to reread it though.
      I really like what you said here. Although you don’t care for Austen, you can still respect her.
      And oh dear. I haven’t ever read any Hemingway, and I never see anybody comment that they like his works. He’s one of those authors I’m a bit intimidated to try to read! Someday I’ll get to him!

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      1. I think the fact that Clueless, which I do enjoy, is so great is because Austen’s stories are so relatable. The language and slang in that movie is fantastic and there’s a good special feature on the DVD about how it changed the way people talked after seeing the movie. Hemingway is just about the opposite end of the spectrum from Austen. His writing is minimalist so there is little description and some of his stories are almost completely dialogue based like “Hills Like White Elephants.” I only brought him up because they are the two authors I plan on never reading again.

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        1. Clueless is truly excellent. I love how Amy Heckerling wrote Clueless and the language and slang she created. It’s a wonderful adaptation. Respectful nods to the original, with slight changes that still evoke the overall tone of Austen’s Emma.
          Hemingway sounds awful actually. I’m putting his books down towards the bottom of my TBR. I know someday I’ll read one, but from your description I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon!

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    1. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on Austen! They don’t really seem like your type of book, but there is biting wit in the stories, so are definitely more than just average romance books, and you may end up really enjoying them. And the plots and characters are such classics. I’d say start with Pride and Prejudice first. It flies on by.

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      1. That has been one book which has been on and around the periphery of my readings about books. The wit should help me breeze through. Plus it is a literary classic so I think it can’t be even poor, let alone bad. Maybe I will actually get down to reading it one of these days after all. 🙂

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            1. hahahahaha 🙂 I do always have a classic going while reading other things, but I’m currently working my way through War and Peace and that’ll take me a long time to get through!! Probably by the time I’m finished with that I’ll be leaning towards other classics.

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              1. Great. I have only tried once or twice to read 2-3 books concurrently. But more often than not I prefer reading them one at a time. I usually read quite a few articles and things simulate with the book so it covers the time nicely. As for the classics, well, I don’t remember the last one I read. I have Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude ready to go and I’m in the in the phase between books so maybe I’ll pick that up after all. 😀

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                1. Good luck with One Hundred Years of Solitude!!! I haven’t read that one, but I’ve read his Love in the Time of Cholera and didn’t like it at all. I had a hard time with his style of writing. But a lot of people really love his work.

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  4. I absolutely love Pride and Prejudice and its timeless romance. Persuasion is another fav of mine because it accurately captures the regret of a lost love, so when Anne hit if off with the captain, I can’t help but squeal in glee~

    I like Austen more so because of her satire. Her books are both fun, lovely romances but not without wit against the ridiculousness of her time.

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    1. Pride and Prejudice is so wonderful. 🙂 I love it! And I adore Persuasion. Wentworth’s letter at the end of the book is the most romantic thing I’ve ever read. Hands down “you pierce me soul” is my favorite romantic quote. I’m a huge fan of lost love or long suffering love tropes, so Persuasion just really speaks to me.
      Austen’s wit is great! Her books have such a biting tone in places. On my reread of Sense and Sensibility I was struck by how she really skewers Marianne and her romantic tendencies. I really gravitated towards Eleanor and loved her dry, biting humor.

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  5. Excellent reasoning and great post. Im not a huge Austen fan but I’ve read them all and love the movies. Especially Sense & Sensibility. I need to look up the reasoning behind not putting Austen in the canon because i simply cant imagine why not!

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    1. Thanks! I completely understand why some people aren’t huge Austen fans. I think the fact that you love the movies speaks to how relevant and timeless her plots are. I love Sense and Sensibility! The Emma Thompson / Kate Winslet movie version was adapted so well. The beginning of that movie was screenwriting genius, as much of the setup isn’t written as dialogue in the book. I also really like the recent PBS miniseries version. I like how they portrayed the Marianne/Brandon relationship – they actually showed Marianne falling in love with Brandon slowly.
      I think the reasoning was mostly due to her being seen as a romance writer, but she writes much more than romance.

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  6. Yes, you’re so right that Austen is relevant today! Social and historical context can be helpful when reading, but largely you don’t need to annotate Austen because the driving forces of the plots are relatable.

    Also, Austen is so funny! Not a lot of people talk about it, but her wit is scathing!

    And this: “You may have noticed that I skipped Mansfield Park. That is because I can’t recall anything about it.” Me, too… I just watched the movie version a few months back, too.

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    1. She really is hilarious. There is a dry humor there that I really love. In my recent reread of Sense and Sensibility it was so funny to read Eleanor’s dry wit, especially with regards to Marianne. There is a “dead leaves” scene that is perfect.
      Ha Ha – Mansfield Park really is a dud!! Especially if you just watched the movie version and can’t remember it. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched any adaptation of it or read the book. I want to reread her books again, and I haven’t read Lady Susan yet.

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  7. Well said! Jane Austen, as you so aptly wrote, has been one of the most influential novelists of all time. Add to the fact that she was ahead of her time in so many ways, as both a published female writer, and seeing the humor in her society’s values, she most definitely should be in the classic literature canon. Her characters and plots are timeless. Just think of how many authors have riffed off of her books to make their own careers; all of the movies made, etc., etc. I fell in love with Jane Austen in the first English class I took in college; watching Sir Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson in the Darcy and Elizabeth roles opened my eyes to British literature of which I have read many of the classics. My favorite is Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth as my favorite heroine, and I admit that Mr. Darcy is my favorite male character. And who can’t relate to knowing someone as snobbish as Lady Catherine deBurgh and as devious as Lucy Steele?

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    1. Lady Catherine deBurgh is hilarious to read. Her scene with Elizabeth at the end of P&P is just a wonderful scene to read and react to. I love Mr Collins and his attempts to keep her happy. Poor Charlotte.
      So many people have made money off of Jane. And just think of all the merchandise that is available now for purchase. Her work really speaks to a lot of people.
      I love the Olivier & Garson version of P&P. It’s so enchanting and of course Mrs Bennett’s line at the end is great 🙂
      Uggh. Lucy Steele is the worst.

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    1. Thanks 🙂 Mansfield Park is just so boring. I didn’t connect with Fanny Price at all. It’s been awhile since I read it, so I think I need to reread it at some point just in case my feelings change, but it seems like Mansfield Park is Austen’s least popular novel.

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    1. Yes I can see how that would be confusing! I much prefer the movie version of Possession for some reason over the book. Probably because I watched it first before reading the book. I couldn’t get into the book, which I fully expected to love going in. It’s one that I want to try again someday.
      And I adore Persuasion, and I know some people have a tough time getting into that Austen book.

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  8. Well said! I 100% agree. Like you say, her writing is so witty and classic and she is just a brilliant story teller. Even though she wrote her books 200 years ago I don’t find her writing style hard to read or inaccessible at all. And as you said, the themes and situations are still so relevant to life today. Mansfield Park also isn’t one of my favourites, but I adore Pride and Prejudice.

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    1. Thanks! I don’t really find her writing style hard to read either. Maybe a few of the words she uses, but I know that when I pick up an Austen book I want to be able to concentrate on the writing, so will be sure I can read it with all my attention on it. I think it, and a lot of other classic literature, deserves that attention.
      Does anyone love Mansfield Park?? I’m starting to wonder!! 🙂

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