Aubrey's Reviews > Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen
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4.5/5

I powered through this reread for an Emma tag team two-tome essay due in less than a fortnight, so if this review seems myopic in one or more particular directions, that's why. The brutally paced parsing of the text this time around is probably why I found the introduction and afterword so insufferable. Here I was, armed to the teeth with the single minded focus of hacking through the narrative foliage for tidbits of the ideal male mate as prescribed by Austenian code, only to be faced with nearly thirty page long bookends of Sparknote analysis and chewed out trivialities. It's the result of the worst sort of blinkered presumption that, wherein since English isn't rocket science and Austen is Austen, a minimum level of effort is more than acceptable when it comes to getting at the marrow of the stakes at hand. Mind you, anyone who tries to take my words and use them to condemn the Millennials or the immigrants or whatever newfangled ideologies are disturbing their self-complacent entitlement can take a hike. Austen knew what she was about when she made every novel of hers a matter of money, so if you want more of me and less of the status quo, be sure to have your ballots and checkbooks in hand.

I've done enough rereading this past school quarter to no longer look at it as most certain slog if done within five years of the previous, but there's also the quality school environment to consider. Beyond all the bureaucracy of identity politics (I'd gladly trade places with the neurotypicals whose biggest concern is being hated by those who they think they want to "help"), there's nothing I love more than new critical perspectives, new paradigms, new ways of chewing through texts which, for all that, hold up admirably enough to justify the expenditure. The hardship, of course, is that I am no longer the person who wrote that first review below after reading the book in community college. I am the one who's encountering the text with the new abstract knowledge of Austen's family having been involved in the slave trade and the new practical knowledge of negotiating with those whose responsibility for college students amounts to little more than a subtle sadism. Deep down, I still enjoy Anne Elliot's character traits on an instinctual level, but I would no longer hesitate on tearing it and this novel apart to suit my analytical purposes. An underdog complex, perhaps, especially when considering this didn't dislodge P&P as my favorite after all, but I want to see the eight-and-a-half years of angst and painful self-reflexivity, not the pretense that everything worked cause, really, nothing had to change.

Having now moved through the complete set of complete novels, there is a much stronger feel for the world within which the heroine moves with all its self-obsessed people, manipulating people, disabled people, female people, children, colonialism, sailors, class, and the socioeconomic politics of gender than there was in Sense and Sensibility, in the sense of serious consideration that does not pretend the current hegemony is the universal truth. Propriety no longer bows in the face of masculine entitlement, and what plot movement there was in the form of death and degradation was not passed over with the modicum of effort that is deus ex machina. One could make an argument for development/complication/experimentation of prose and grammar, but I am not such a one. I took this class called Jane Austen and Her Peers with the aim of enhancing an experience that had thus far been a little here, a little there, sizable amounts of love mingling with medium levels of indifference and even some measures of hatred. I'd say I got my money's worth.


P.S. Completely missed the part where one of the characters criticizes the main antagonist as having a small dick the first time around. The joys of analysis.

---

1/27/15

4.5/5

For every work I read and review on here, I read about three decent sized novel's worth of online fanfic. This has lead to some weird and wonderful critical analysis skills, an example being my discussion of a key plot point that started off smooth, spazzed out of giddy control, and ended with a "framing of narratives" commentary that I didn't even know I could do. I blame the afterword of this edition with its "Here's ten academic jargon things that Austen was great at!" that totally messed with my shipping flow, but hey. The prof liked it well enough, even though I'm certain my "He figured out he actually wanted to do the thing by talking about something completely different from the thing" raised no small number of eyebrows.

Anyway. Persuasion! Persuasion. I'm so glad the class picked this up because, one, christ this class is a sausage fest, and two, this book is so clever that I absolutely must to do my first paper on it. You'd think I'd have picked up on this during my three previous Austen books, but either I don't remember them that well or this last one of hers is another kettle of fish entirely. The introduction supported my suspicions a measure with talk about class differences and the coming of a nouveau riche type excitement that Austen was actually pretty okay with, but what really got me was the rhetoric and how invested the author was in stretching those three terms as far as they could go.

Unlike the Swift and Pope and Gay that came before in class with their satire and misanthropy and lazy ass indictment of humanity via, you guessed it, women and non-Europeans, Austen's invested in making things work. It comes across the clearest in this work because of the problems she's wrestling of landed gentry versus incoming rich Navy personnel, age, gender roles, cultural ideologies formed by unbalanced representation, and what, ultimately, is right in terms of when, why, and how. This, mind you, is all coming across through a "comedy of manners", a romance wherein everything must happen carefully, subtly, and with the most fine-tuned pieces of rhetoric that English can afford. In short, persuasions of varying overtness and strength prove equally true under various circumstances that no one can always get the right of, or as put by this gem of a gem of a quote:
There, he had learnt to distinguish between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will, between the daring of heedlessness and the resolution of a collected mind.
Morality does not operate in a vacuum, for better or for worse, and any author who can successfully wrestle a meaning from it deserves praise. Stigma against drawing room romances be damned, a writer's apprehension is not limited by the share of humanity they were given. Besides, if you want to be able to appreciate the Deep Universal Things and giggle at the same time, Austen's your woman.

P.S. For all my praise, I didn't like this as much as Pride and Prejudice because of the comparatively low potential for hate-sex. Not academically professional at all, but true.
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Reading Progress

January 23, 2015 – Shelved
January 23, 2015 – Shelved as: reality-check
January 23, 2015 –
page 0
0.0% "For class, coming most conveniently when I need something to cleanse the virulent misogyny of 'The Beggar's Opera' from my brain."
January 24, 2015 –
page 75
25.17% "Plot: Romance! Intrigue! Desire! Fangasms!

Anne: ಠ_ಠ"
January 25, 2015 –
page 150
50.34% "A very good man, and very much the gentleman I am sure—but I should think, Miss Elliot" (looking with serious reflection) "I should think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life.— Such a number of looking glasses! Oh Lord! there was no getting away from oneself."
January 27, 2015 –
page 264
88.59% "Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: 1-read-on-hand
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: 4-star
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed
January 27, 2015 – Shelved as: r-2015
March 13, 2015 – Shelved as: r-goodreads
June 24, 2015 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-read
July 10, 2015 – Shelved as: virago
December 17, 2015 – Shelved as: antidote-think-twice-all
February 26, 2016 – Started Reading
February 26, 2016 –
page 0
0.0% "This has the potential of displacing P&P as my favorite Austen. Stay tuned."
February 27, 2016 –
page 23
7.72% "My current workload has entailed a measure of shortcut foibles such as not reading my Middlemarch's afterword as a means of finishing the book for school without instigating the writing of a review and skipping the introduction of this in order to more quickly begin my essay. It'll be nice when I can slow down and take up my usual go big or go home methodology."
February 27, 2016 –
page 73
24.5% "It's so wonderful that reading this counts as being productive for class, especially when the conclusion for an essay for a different class is flat out refusing to cooperate."
February 28, 2016 –
page 133
44.63% "Everyone: *loses their shit*

Anne: *rolls up sleeves*"
March 1, 2016 –
page 264
88.59% "Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
March 1, 2016 – Shelved as: r-2016
March 1, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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Kaion This is my favorite Austen. Anne even marries sort of outside of class lines, which seems like progress for Austen.


Aubrey I still like P&P better, but this one's very good indeed.


message 3: by Dolors (last edited Jan 27, 2015 11:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors Will have to read more fanfic from now on Aubrey, for your critic skills are off the charts. Glad you liked deceptively meek Mrs.Elliot and her resolution to defend her pride, leaving aside others' prejudices!:)


·Karen· All of your review is brilliant, but the bestest ever is that brief encapsulation of Austen:
Besides, if you want to be able to appreciate the Deep Universal Things and giggle at the same time, Austen's your woman.

Yup.


Fiona I like, and largely agree, with this review, and would like to present you with this high-five for the postscript.


message 6: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Not only was Austen a more experienced novelist when she wrote this one, Anne Elliot, her heroine, is more mature as well. That makes it difficult to use Austen's earlier plot line of the naive young woman falling for the good-looking cad but learning (at last, usually after some large mistakes) the truer value of the good man.

And as for the middle class (Navy officers) vs. landed classes (like Mr. Darcy in P&P), Austen's family earned their money rather than inheriting it. Even so, they were quite comfortable financially, and Jane lived with her family all her life. I believe she had a couple of brothers who were Navy officers, but I may be misremembering that.

You wrote:

Besides, if you want to be able to appreciate the Deep Universal Things and giggle at the same time, Austen's your woman.

Well said and on target. Her extreme subtlety as a writer and commentator on human foibles makes her very much "[our] woman."


message 7: by Brian (new)

Brian lurv:

I didn't like this as much as Pride and Prejudice because of the comparatively low potential for hate-sex.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Delightful review for me. The comment about her milking great truths out of the limited setting of "drawing rooms" makes me think of you as an anthropologist trying glean what she can from trips to the zoo. If one took the andro-/anthro- out of the avocation term, would that make you a gynepologist? Just kidding over the hate-sex zing. But I do admire how your pursuit almost has the scope of a scientist pursuing a revealing portrait of human nature.


Aubrey Dolors wrote: "Will have to read more fanfic from now on Aubrey, for your critic skills are off the charts. Glad you liked deceptively meek Mrs.Elliot and her resolution to defend her pride, leaving aside others'..."

Heh, in that case, Dolors, be prepared to hone your skills of separating the wheat from the chaff to the utmost, for in fanfic there's quite a lot of the latter.


Aubrey ·Karen· wrote: "All of your review is brilliant, but the bestest ever is that brief encapsulation of Austen:
Besides, if you want to be able to appreciate the Deep Universal Things and giggle at the same time, Au..."


Thank you, Karen. Giggling is good for the soul.


Aubrey Fiona wrote: "I like, and largely agree, with this review, and would like to present you with this high-five for the postscript."

*high fives back*


Aubrey Margaret wrote: "Not only was Austen a more experienced novelist when she wrote this one, Anne Elliot, her heroine, is more mature as well. That makes it difficult to use Austen's earlier plot line of the naive you..."

Either the intro or the afterward of this edition mentioned that she did indeed have two brothers in the Navy, and that she wrote certain scenes such as the Admiral poking fun at an artist's rendition of a ship expressly for their enjoyment.

I'm glad you also found that last comment of mine worthy of remembrance. It took much longer to compose than it may appear.


Aubrey Brian wrote: "lurv:

I didn't like this as much as Pride and Prejudice because of the comparatively low potential for hate-sex."


:D


Aubrey Michael wrote: "Delightful review for me. The comment about her milking great truths out of the limited setting of "drawing rooms" makes me think of you as an anthropologist trying glean what she can from trips t..."

Humans are humans in whatever context. Traveling may offer a broader scope, but it does not guarantee true understanding as can be seen in may a colonial composition.


Samadrita "Besides, if you want to be able to appreciate the Deep Universal Things and giggle at the same time, Austen's your woman."

Best 1-sentence description of Austen.


Aubrey Thank you, Samadrita.


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