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Anatomy of a Janeite

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message 1: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I stumbled across this article "Anatomy of a Janeite: Results from The Jane Austen Survey 2008" by Jeanne Kiefer in which she outlines the results of her 2008 survey to discover "what is a Janeite?" If any of you Janeites enjoy a good statistic or two, take a look!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) 96% of survey respondents were female! Amazing!


message 3: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Wow Joy, that article will be interesting to look through. I'll return with thoughts here after I have read it. Thanks!


message 4: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Christopher wrote: "96% of survey respondents were female! Amazing!"

It just goes to show how truly special (and dare I say advanced?) you are Chris!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "Christopher wrote: "96% of survey respondents were female! Amazing!"

It just goes to show how truly special (and dare I say advanced?) you are Chris!"


I was pretty much gobsmacked at the paucity of men that responded! I really don't get it why more men don't read Austen? I know lots of my male friends that have read many of the great authors of literature, but their eyes glaze over when you mention Austen, Eliot, the Brontes, or Gaskell. It is a level of ignorance that I find virtually inexcusable.

I have found, over the years, that women are nowhere near as picky about the gender of an author that they are reading. Very, very odd. As a rhetorical question I wonder if maybe it has to do with how we raise little boys, or if it is something that is taught (or not taught) in school?


message 6: by Joy (last edited Jul 20, 2010 06:20PM) (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I don't know what it is, but there is definitely something about Austen (or, more likely her reputation since most haven't read her) that seems to dissuade men from reading her works. Perhaps it has something to do with the popularity of Austen in the last 20 years and the number of movie adaptations that has led to the perception that Austen is "chick-lit" and therefore not a worthwhile author for most men.

I do think it is also interesting that Austen seems to be regarded by some academics as less prestigious than some of the other female authors you mentioned. In all of my British Literature courses there was never an Austen novel assigned (except for a course devoted to Austen and that was led by a female professor), although I did read Eliot, two Brontes, and Gaskell in various classes.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "I don't know what it is, but there is definitely something about Austen (or, more likely her reputation since most haven't read her) that seems to dissuade men from reading her works. Perhaps it ha..."

A very interesting observation, Joy! I remember that the only Austen I read in an advanced British literature survey course I took was, amazingly enough, "Mansfield Park." One of the lesser-liked and more complicated Austen novels to get into; which, of course, was precisely the professor's point in selecting it.

I think another reason that Austen is typically not taught is because she is the top-of-the-heap in 'classics popularity.' Most English departments want you to delve a little deeper and become exposed to a broader cross-section. Don't you think?


message 8: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Christopher wrote: "I think another reason that Austen is typically not taught is because she is the top-of-the-heap in 'classics popularity.' Most English departments want you to delve a little deeper and become exposed to a broader cross-section. Don't you think? "

I agree, and I think that it is important for one to have one's horizons broadened in college. On the other hand, there is never a lack of Dickens in British Literature courses and he doesn't seem to do too badly for himself in the popularity department!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "Christopher wrote: "I think another reason that Austen is typically not taught is because she is the top-of-the-heap in 'classics popularity.' Most English departments want you to delve a little de..."

Yeah, that's true about Dickens. You know, Joy, [just among us friends here:] as much as I do like Dickens, I truly like so many other authors even better. Dickens is good, and a couple of his novels are great (e.g., "Bleak House" and "Our Mutual Friend"), but overall his work isn't as 'deep' as a lot of our favorite authors. What say you to my 'heresy'? ;-)


message 10: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I like your heresy!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "I like your heresy!"

Oh, great minds do think alike! ;-)


message 12: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) haha--indeed they do!


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

If I may comment on the survey - ahem - you might want to consider that the respondents were members of JASNA and had to have read all 6 novels. 68% of the Janeites lived in the US and a mere 16% in the UK. So, maybe the question is: Why are so few men members of JASNA?

But, I do agree that Austen is seen as "women's lit" and rather lightweight. And, at first glance, Austen's novels are about getting a good husband, right? So, I can see how her books can get passed over by someone who wants to read something more "worthwhile". But, as I am a literary lightweight myself, and read for enjoyment first, I can read Austen with no misgivings and enjoy what the others are missing. :)


message 14: by Joy (last edited Jul 20, 2010 07:20PM) (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Although, I am sure that the majority of JASNA members are women, she did open up the survey to non-member Janeites: "The online version was publicized on the JASNA websites as well as a number of Austen-oriented sites, such as AustenBlog, Yahoo/Janeites, and The Republic of Pemberley" and she also points out that "only one in four has joined his or her national Austen organization".

I think that your assessment that "at first glance, Austen's novels are about getting a good husband" is quite accurate in identifying why more men don't find Austen appealing!


message 15: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I have to add, that I also expect to be entertained when I read, Jeannette! In fact, in my opinion, the mark of good literature is its ability to entertain me and make me think or challenge me in some way.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "I have to add, that I also expect to be entertained when I read, Jeannette! In fact, in my opinion, the mark of good literature is its ability to entertain me and make me think or challenge me in s..."

And that, Joy, Austen does time and time again! I read her novels over and over again for just that experience; and I get more out of 'em each and every time.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy wrote: "I have to add, that I also expect to be entertained when I read, Jeannette! In fact, in my opinion, the mark of good literature is its ability to entertain me and make me think or challenge me in s..."

I was referring to those Lit classes where they want to broaden your horizons, not to either of you personally. Some of the required reading is definitely not enjoyable, and I've been called out for disliking a work because, well, I didn't like it. (I didn't fit in with the English majors generally). Personal example: JA was excluded from my daughter's Major British Writer's course. She was required to read one of Beckett's plays, about some people living in bins. She thought the play was weird. :)

As for the survey, it was slanted towards JASNA, and then blog sites, which I think are also mostly populated by women. I don't think we will ever see a fair count of men who have actually read and enjoyed one of Jane's books. Not unless we put a check box on the 1040 or something similar. (I don't like poll results with such small sample sizes, statistically accurate or not. Am I being a grump today?)


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Jeannette wrote: "Joy wrote: "I have to add, that I also expect to be entertained when I read, Jeannette! In fact, in my opinion, the mark of good literature is its ability to entertain me and make me think or chall..."

Jeannette, I need to fess up. I am a member of JASNA; and I remember the poll. I was tardy in responding ( my male procrastination thing). I do think that you are right in that where the poll was circulated probably only came in front of women generally.

I also think that most English departments try and stay away from the most popular fiction (classic or contemporary) whilst trying to expose students to a more broad cross-section of lit. You can take courses that focus on Dickens, Austen, et al., at the senior or graduate level, but they really want you to focus on becoming a critical reader.

Men read Austen, in the same way that women read Hardy or O'Brian. If you look at this group, for example, you'll see that something less than 10% of all of the members are male. It is what it is.

No, you are not being a grump!


message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 20, 2010 08:41PM) (new)

I really think that is most of it. In her day, Austen had a wider readership among both sexes, I would think. I think in our modern times, with so much to choose from, it's easy to read just what you are most interested in and/or comfortable reading. So, my husband reads M&C and Sharpe, and historical accounts (battles, wars, military strategies) and science books. I don't read many of his books, but I like some of them. He doesn't read any manga, which I really enjoy. He does read Marvel comics.

But, he enjoyed it when I read Persuasion out loud. And, he does enjoy the adaptations. He just has other books that he prefers to read.

Now I'm off to read more Hardy. It is starting to get interesting. That is one thing that talking with friends like you and Joy has done for me: it has expanded my taste in books, and my understanding of old favorites, tremendously! :)


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Jeannette wrote: "I really think that is most of it. In her day, Austen had a wider readership among both sexes, I would think. I think in our modern times, with so much to choose from, it's easy to read just what..."

Oh, I don't think so at all, Jeannette. I don't think Jane Austen was well read at all in her time, or even in the 50-years following her death. Her stature and following has only improved with time.


message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 20, 2010 08:53PM) (new)

I guess I meant that she was more likely read by both sexes when she became popular the first time around. (Oh, bad Dobby, I have not really read much biography about JA.) To make amends, here is a rather interesting article relating to this discussion:

“In March 1915, the Kiplings had visited Bath and he re-read the works of Jane Austen there. He wrote to a friend that “the more I read the more I admire and respect and do reverence… When she looks straight at a man or a woman she is greater than those who were alive with her - by a whole head… with a more delicate hand and a keener scalpel.”

In 1923, the author had completed writing The Janeites. The short story, begun the year before, was completed after Kipling’s discussion with critic George Saintsbury, who is credited with first using the term in an introduction to Pride and Prejudice.

“However, it was Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Janeites' which made the name famous. The story concerns a simple and uneducated soldier and mess waiter in the trenches who reads Jane Austen's novels so that he can join the 'secret society' of officers who read her. At first Humberst doesn't like her novels, but eventually he becomes a big fan. Ironically, after the war is over, reading Jane Austen reminds him of the comradeship and camaraderie that he found in the trenches. Humberst praises this soothing quality of JA: "There's no one to match Jane when you're in a tight place."”



message 22: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Jul 20, 2010 09:00PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Jeannette wrote: "I guess I meant that she was more likely read by both sexes when she became popular the first time around. (Oh, bad Dobby, I have not really read much biography about JA.) To make amends, here is..."

It actually was quite common for the the young soldiers, especially the officer class, to take 'England' with them, in their pockets, across the Channel to the battlefields of France; and most of the time it was Austen and Dickens. Kipling's short-story was indeed the genesis of the term 'Janeites.'


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

What a difference eighty years makes!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Jeannette wrote: "What a difference eighty years makes!"

Amen, sister, Amen!


message 25: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Christopher wrote: "And that, Joy, Austen does time and time again! I read her novels over and over again for just that experience; and I get more out of 'em each and every time."

And that is why Austen's work is not merely good literature, but rather ranks among the best literature!


message 26: by Joy (last edited Jul 20, 2010 09:37PM) (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Jeannette wrote: "I guess I meant that she was more likely read by both sexes when she became popular the first time around. (Oh, bad Dobby, I have not really read much biography about JA.) To make amends, here is..."

Yes, in the early part of the 20th century, her most loyal (and vocal) supporters were indeed men! There was an interesting section in Jane's Fame that outlined this important time in the development of, well for lack of a better phrase, Jane's fame!

(I feel like Jack Aubrey, giggling at my small pun!)


message 27: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Jeannette wrote: "As for the survey, it was slanted towards JASNA, and then blog sites, which I think are also mostly populated by women. I don't think we will ever see a fair count of men who have actually read and enjoyed one of Jane's books. Not unless we put a check box on the 1040 or something similar."

I agree that it was slanted toward JASNA participants, however, since the survey was intended to capture the opinions of those who "1) had read all six major Austen novels, and 2) considered themselves to be 'sincere admirers'", I suppose that was the easiest way to track down those who met the requirements. And since the survey was conducted in order to present at the JASNA yearly meeting, perhaps the bias made sense. Although, it would be wonderful to see a more wide-spread survey!

p.s. I was telling my husband about the survey and he said that from what he recalled from his statistics course in his MBA program, a sample size of 501 participants is an appropriate size for a large study and accounts for demographic variations (ie age, gender, etc.) and any group larger than that has no more statistical validity.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Statistics is just something I can never get my head around. In this case, for example, there could be whole towns full of Austen-reading men who don't use the internet and/or don't read English! I think the telling part, at least the one that makes me skeptical of the results, is the very low percentage of Janeites in the UK. I think it most likely accurately reflects the membership of JASNA, but I am not convinced it accurately reflects the wider population.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy,

Speaking of Aubrey and puns: Did you watch the M&C movie?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Jeannette wrote: "Statistics is just something I can never get my head around. In this case, for example, there could be whole towns full of Austen-reading men who don't use the internet and/or don't read English! ..."

I think that the survey was only circulated among members of the "Jane Austen Society of North America," and not its equivalent in the UK, or other countries.

Finally, wasn't it Disraeli that said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics"?


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

So, there is hope for my small town in one of those nations that end in -stan, full of men reading Austen? :)


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy wrote: "I have to add, that I also expect to be entertained when I read, Jeannette! In fact, in my opinion, the mark of good literature is its ability to entertain me and make me think or challenge me in s..."

I wanted to add another comment about the appeal of Jane Austen. Even though her books are written in a rather narrow setting (time period, manners and customs) her themes are really timeless. I might daydream about the balls and the gowns, but I can honestly relate to the stories of dysfunctional families, miscommunication in love, desire, loss, and finally the happy ending.


message 33: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Jeannette wrote: "Joy,

Speaking of Aubrey and puns: Did you watch the M&C movie?"


Not yet, my TV has been commandeered by 3 hours of the Tour de France each evening (!!) but my hubby will be gone tomorrow night, so I am going to watch it :)


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Commandeer: a nautical term.

I am looking forward to your reaction to Russell Crowe delivering some fine Aubrey puns. :)


message 35: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum This question is for you especially, Christopher: do you find that women in general read more novels than men do? Could that be one of the reasons so many women were represented in the survey? I have quite a few female friends who always have a book in hand, but only one male friend who does (and he tends to read a lot of non-fiction). Or maybe my friends are a slice of non-typical American demography (is that a word?!?).
And as far as Master and Commander goes, I'm still trying to find a copy of it. I live in a teeny town and haven't had luck with the library or friends, so I may just have to order it!


message 36: by Gemma (new)

Gemma | 25 comments That is actually an interesting question, Karlyne. My female relatives always have something to read, yet trying to get my father to read his own mail is like trying to train goldfish. I might be wrong, but I think it might have something to do with men being more dependent on sight rather than imagination. A good author can only do so much to create a picture in your mind. Plus, how many of the boys in high school were called nerds for reading? What do you think, Christopher?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I was a nerd! I still am a nerd! In fact, my wife still calls me that repeatedly. I really don't watch much TV, and I probably read 7-80 books a year (I'm at 64 now).

Having said all of this; yes, I agree. I think women do tend to read more than men, and I'm not quite sure why?


message 38: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I will bite my tongue and not state any obvious stereotypes that would imply women are better than men. ;)


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "I will bite my tongue and not state any obvious stereotypes that would imply women are better than men. ;)"

I probably wouldn't disagree. I was kind of hoping for a female President, just for example.


message 40: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I kid, I kid. We each of us have different strengths and weakness, no better than the other (although a love of reading is something that I personally value above many other things!).

It is interesting that so many other countries other than the US have elected women to their highest political authority. I would certainly like to see it happen in my lifetime (and it would be quite ridiculous if I don't)!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Joy wrote: "I kid, I kid. We each of us have different strengths and weakness, no better than the other (although a love of reading is something that I personally value above many other things!).

It is inte..."


It would indeed. I am pretty confident that it'll happen in my life-time. I await the day (as long as it isn't Palin!).


message 42: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Christopher wrote: "Joy wrote: "I kid, I kid. We each of us have different strengths and weakness, no better than the other (although a love of reading is something that I personally value above many other things!). ..."

My heart stopped for a second when I read that and an involuntary "Oh God" escaped from my terror-filled heart.


message 43: by Sue (new)

Sue (suesnew) Joy wrote: "I stumbled across this article "Anatomy of a Janeite: Results from The Jane Austen Survey 2008" by Jeanne Kiefer in which she outlines the results of her 2008 survey to discover "what is a Janeite?..."

fascinating


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Do you think that women read more because historically they were confined to indoor pursuits (especially among the upper classes, who had the leisure time to both read and to be taught to read)? Needlework and reading, with the men sitting and contemplating (snoozing) in front of the fire.

My husband is an avid reader, but he doesn't have the time to read like I do. His mom is a reader, but his dad isn't.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Joy wrote: "My heart stopped for a second when I read that and an involuntary "Oh God" escaped from my terror-filled heart. "

Me, too!


message 46: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Jul 22, 2010 07:53AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I read the survey, and I just don't know that it told me anything really. I have to confess I am a little critical of statistical reports because I worked in marketing for years and these were a part of my tasks. I think a statistical report can be just be noise if it doesn't tell us anything needed. If it is just for fun, that's another thing (as long as it isn't a high budget item!) I guess maybe saying it another way, there are a lot of numbers in there, but maybe too many. And I just wonder -- where do "sincere admirers" of Austen like to vacation? Hmmm. Anatomy of a Janeite -- is it really?

But the issue that you GR JA group members brought up was much more important -- why are men not reading Austen? or are they? somewhere in North America? I have had both boys and girls in my household and I just find that young men have some social restrictions on them that us liberated women do not -- sad to say in the 21st century.

I don't know if it just my part of the country and the social leanings of this region, but boys are encouraged to read boy books, choose boy colors, play with other boys, decorate their rooms with boy furnishings, lean toward team sports over other pursuits... you see where I am going with this. So I think boys may get little chance to decide for themselves what great authors strike a note with them, when they they are steered away from so many things at an early age. The view of the sexes in our country is a troubling thing, at least from where I am standing.


message 47: by Sue (new)

Sue (suesnew) You know it's funny. I would agree in a way. Yes boys are turned toward sports, trains, etc over per se more feminine things. But as men they certainly can change a portion of that. Just because they start out not reading brit lit doesn't mean they won't at some time. My husband was raised on a farm. Very manly pursuits instilled. He doesn't enjoy reading anything except the newspaper. However he does enjoy romance and just family bonds in general. Nothing has been more important than family relationships to him in our 32 years of life together. He just shows it in other ways. He enjoys looking for trips for us to go on together or out to eat. He enjoys a good romance as well as the next person but usually on the television or a movie. But more so the modern ones. We just watched "Leap Year" and he enjoyed it. He knows all my favorite parts in Austen movies. He'll watch part of Austen, Gaskell, whoever with me but he doesn't enjoy the way they speak and so he gives it up after awhile. My granddaughter is the same way. She also has a hard time following some of the speech. Modern, slower speaking and not as much wit I find. My grandson however loves to read whatever even tho' young. And he is more than content to share anything he has with you. Whether it's his camping gear or his doll (dressed in blue albeit). It makes it kind of hard to guess where things are going for the sexes after all. Then of course some of my favorite parts aren't dialog at all but the dancing. I love dancing. My husband does too but only certain kinds. So one just never knows. I guess that didn't add any clarification to the board. But just a comment.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

But, an interesting comment, Sue. :) My daughter was never a girly-girl. She didn't like pink or frilly, but she did like her Barbie's. She didn't read Little House on the Prairie, she preferred humor or fantasy. She still hasn't read any Austen (maybe because I like it so much), but she is expanding her tastes.


message 49: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Sue, you and everyone else are all adding great comments to the group. I love that we at least think about these things and are brave enough to talk about gender stuff, because in my surroundings it is a sensitive issue. Jeannette, I expect that you allowed your daughter a lot of room to decide not to go in for things that are deemed extra-feminine.

And I guess the Little House books were deemed for girls, weren't they. That is an interesting example because they were so much more than just books about little girls growing up -- they really told a large story, but boys may not read them either -- of course few male characters in them I suppose.

Sue, it sounds like the men in your family branched out well! They were able to decide what they were comfortable with as a person not a part of one gender maybe.

I wonder too if all this cautious gender stuff is really that old. My grandfather grew up on a farm, a farmer, worked in law enforcement -- but his reading tastes were vast. Is it because he grew up in a less commercial age -- no multimedia helping to shape his or his parents views on what a boy should pick up. I think of other older relatives who are interested in music or studying things that these days seem viewed less manly around where I live.


message 50: by Sue (new)

Sue (suesnew) I figure there's always room for hope right. Neither of my daughters were strictly girly as the term applies. They both had a variety of pursuits. My youngest sounds like yours in a sense. She wasn't into frilly and still isn't as a mom of 3. She usually doesn't wear makeup but does blowdry her hair..lol. She likes a little of everything sci-fi like her dad, sports like her husband, drama like her sister, family orientated movies etc with her kids, animation. She enjoyed reading Beethoven like the movie about the dog. She liked Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. She hasn't really read any Austen tho' when here for a visit I let her watch the end of all the movies I have for the genre. That way she could pick what she wanted to watch all of. With 3 little ones it seemed prudent not to waste time..lol. She really enjoyed it and now has all the movies. So maybe some day she'll reach a point where they are over 5 years old and she can get some peace and quiet and have a good read. I'll always be eager to support her. One can always hope. My other daughter usually enjoyed dramas for the most part. So is more the feminine type but style not frilly per se. She is a nurse so she doesn't read much except for charts and when home only reads stories to her kids nothing for fun. But she didn't overly read like my other one. Still hope tho' as I try to transfer some likes to her oldest daughter (the one mentioned). Only time will tell. I've always like to read but mostly for travel etc. and any magazine I could get my hands on. I had my kids read to me and I enjoyed reading to them about different cultures etc. (I would doze off when the one was reading Nancy Drew to me, not her fault, I was tired after work and too relaxed. So I'd make her reread a few pages until I recognized where we were...quality time you know..lol) But unfortunately it's taken me until I was in my 40's to be able to read novels for enjoyment. Life was just too hectic and I was just too tired. I'm too tired now it's just that now the house stuff doesn't get done and the reading does. Plus sitting in Dr. offices and hospital waiting rooms you have little control over what is on the television and you can always pack along a book to read. So some circumstances definitely do help...smiles. Thanks Jeannette so much for commenting on here.


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