When I searched the catalogue for courses to take this term, I chose one that read: Topics in 18th Century Literature. The course fulfills one of many requirements for my degree, but I also chose the class because it fit o so snugly into my winter schedule. As usual, I bought all my textbooks as early as possible, and when I picked up the books for this class, I was surprised to find the extent of the material directed toward the interest of women. So I went to the English Dept website, and sure enough, the course description reads: Before the Bennet Sisters: Women in Eighteenth-Century Novels. I had no idea, but this wouldn’t have had an impact on my decision to take the course. Fact is, I’ve read much from this fascinating period in time, and I look forward to the discoveries I will make with my continued studies in literary art, especially since I have never heard of any of these, with the pleasant exception of Ms. Austen herself.
An excerpt from the back cover on Pamela reads: Why a fine Gentleman endeavoring to debauch a beautiful girl of sixteen? Reading further through the description of the book, I find expressions like “pornography in disguise” and “widespread controversy on its first appearance.” This book may be a little more adult than I can handle, but I find also, that the book is “a work of pioneering psychological complexity.” Psychological complexity? I can make this work, and as for the sultry reading, wasn’t that what Freud was all about with regard to psychological complexity: sex, sex, sex?
Roxana possesses themes of lost virtue, seduction and tragedy. Who doesn’t love stories of lost virtue, seduction and tragedy? The story is curiously reminiscent of W. M. Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and is more than likely to have had an influence on his novel. No wonder I had to have Byrne & Witherspoon’s Vanity Fair, because such churning, deliciously dramatic plots derive from great English literature.
Millenium Hall delivered a dose of reality to the patriarchal world as 18th Century London knew it. Recognized as sort of a tract on Feminism, the jacket reads of a “female utopia” and a “rational paradise,” and is said to withhold a founding, literary impact on the famous “bluestocking movement.”
A small collection of stories, Fantomina and Other Works tells of “the vicarious experience of erotic love while exploring the ethical and social issues evoked by sexual passion.” Holy Moly, what in the world have I gotten myself into. The minds of the 18th Century English were easily heated back in those days, and so the subject matter may have caused a bit of a stir, but let’s just hope I don’t throw the instructor into a steep, bodily dip for a passionate kiss in front of the class after all of this steamy reading I’m about to endure, even though she’s probably, like, 80 for all I know; I haven’t met her yet.
Last but not least, and the primary reason why I was feeling a bit odd when I learned the nature of the class, is Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice:
Now what in the world is a guy like me doing reading a book like this? I own the movie and I found the subject matter rather interesting, indeed: the story of a plebian girl who ends up marrying an intensely rich man. I don’t want to say this is cliché simply because C. Bronte’s protagonist encounters the same treatment, as Jane Eyre’s man seems to be a little quirky; and even Anne Radcliffe’s Emily seems bound to something of a floundering, insecure and clumsy peasant, where the fortune is acquired inversely, with her becoming the baroness. But I had never expected to read the novel; I read Northanger Abbey for the gothic aspects, and I bought this fine edition of P&P at a thrift store for my collection without the slightest intention of ever reading the pages. Why? Because every girl in the world loves this book in a way that is off-putting for men. They always talk of the ending, and so, I always figure–having only seen the movie–that the ending is so spectacular because the movie makers endeavored to time the shot so that the sun beams through their Barbie doll faces when they kiss at sunrise. So if all the clamor is about a great special effect employed at the end of the movie, then I concur, the ending is excellent. Other than that, I must be missing something with regard to the “endings” in Jane Austen novels. (Y’all believe me, right?)
I plan to attain a paperback copy, however, because I’ve been annotating like a mad cow lately, and I don’t intend on ruining my dearly beloved, Reader’s Digest Edition of Pride & Prejudice. Here’s the illustration of Ms. Elizabeth getting her explanation letter from Mr. Darcy. Is this guy the ultimate, lady-capturing beast? If this is the mark I have to reach, I guess I’m impossibly out of luck. Of course I could write a letter from my heart, but I certainly don’t have that kind of cash. Jane Austen is a true and impeccable, undeniable master of the heart, mind and craft, however, and I do look forward to the read.
Thus, I have my work cut out for me, and this on top of the review on Jane Eyre I still have to write over at Detailed Observations. My nightstand is full of books, my brain is open and receptive, and I’m ready to get down with some 18th Century literature, though I might have to read a little faster than usual to get through all of this. But really though, how much of this sensuous and intimately detailed reading will I be able to handle?