Austenian theories

Saturday October 23, 2010 @ 11:57 AM (UTC)

Theory #1: Your favorite Austen novel has a heroine whose personality is akin to yours. It has long been my theory that which Austen novel one prefers could be used as a personality category. Perhaps not as useful as Myers-Briggs, but useful all the same. In truth, I have not collected enough data to support or disprove, and since I formulated this theory in my teens, I am willing to confess I may have been more motivated by a desire to compare myself to Elizabeth Bennet than by the demands of purest science.

Theory #2: You can determine your favorite Austen novel by rereading any of the others. This is especially important if #1 is to be believed: we need a way of experimentally determining someone’s favorite, rather than trusting them when they say “Oh, not Emma,” thinking I don’t want Felicity to say I’m an Emma! This I only recently realized. Every time I reread another Austen novel, I find myself longing to reread Pride and Prejudice as soon as I finish. Therefore, whether or not #1 allows me to flatter myself, Pride and Prejudice must be my real favorite.

Of course, since I just came up with #2, I’ve no idea whether this longing occurs to anyone else. Well? Gentle reader, my eagerness to hear your views can well be imagined.


I’m always torn between Emma and Persuasion. I don’t think I’m especially like Emma or Anne – although I’m really not certain which of the protagonists I might be most like. Maybe Eleanor? Oh yes, I like Sense and Sensibility too…

I think I fall under the opposite of #2: I read any of her novels and think “That’s so much better than Masnfield Park…” :)

Ha! I have 1.5 friends who say Mansfield Park is their favorite (.5 because when I drew her attention to #2, she said she has that effect and longs for Persuasion.)

So far, #2 is looking more likely than #1, over all.

1. Reading this made me go read Persuasion. I think P&P is the stronger novel, but I have a special love for Persuasion.

2. I have no fears of being assigned Emma as my personality. Emma is 5th on my favorites list, only beating out Northanger Abbey which is entertaining enough but really, not the same as the others.

3. Does that mean that picking S&S pinpoints you as Marianne, because an Eleanorish type would’ve probably picked P&P instead?

4. My first thought on reading this was that no one would get assigned Fanny, then, so I’m surprised to see that you have solid data that some like MP best! Poor MP; I do like it, I just think it would have to come in at least 2nd on anyone’s list to one of the stronger ones.

5. I do my rereading by what’s been the longest since the last read, so your #2 is unlikely to work for me.

6. Upon reading Persuasion the last 2 nights, I was slightly appalled to realize how long it had been since I read any of them. I have let the excellent movies substitute for too long. I think I will go read MP next, as there is no excellent movie available of it. (Thought the most recent BBC was the best, but still, it’s so hard to film that book for a contemporary audience.)

7. Here’s my order, and the strength of my feelings for each goes in pairs (1 & 2 are very strong, 3 & 4 a little less so, etc). P&P, Persuasion, S&S, MP, Emma, NA.

8. I’d guess, somewhere between Elizabeth and Anne. So from that standpoint the Myers-Briggs holds.

1. Interesting. Many people think Persuasion is her masterwork, I’ve found. Even if it isn’t their personal favorite.

2. Recently reread Northanger Abbey. Yes, it’s definitely different — more obviously comic, and in a different vein, quite apart from any arguments you can make about its position as first novel written.

3. I don’t own Sense and Sensibility so I haven’t often read it, and am not 100% clear on how to solve the two-heroine quandary it poses for #1.

4. I think some people subscribe to a sort of “escalating greatness” theory on the Austen oeuvre, so they think Mansfield Park is second-best craft-wise after Persuasion. It is definitely well-made, but I can see how some readers would find Fanny’s diffidence frustrating, or the rather long buildup.

5. Who would have thought a little reader like you could ruin all my beautiful theoryness?

6. I’m mildly resistant to movies, as they rob me of the narration, which is half the fun. I don’t own any or anything, so I haven’t seen them all that much. Once I saw a movie jacket for Mansfield Park that called it a sensuous romp, too, so I mistrust some adaptations!

7. I don’t have an overall ranking. Pride and Prejudice is so far ahead that I’ve never bothered ranking the others! Of course, rereading Persuasion now that I’ve contracted a fondness for the Royal Navy may have an effect.

8. WOOT!

It may or may not surprise you that when I was a wee lass, I used to spend many happy hours deciding how I would rank the books within a series, or oeuvre. #nerd

Wow. I have never done that.

I even hate assigning star-ratings (Witness all my half-stars. When I’ve reviewed things on a 10-point system here in the past, I’ve also used halfs!)

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