Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ode to Jane Austen Part 1 & 2

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Becoming Jane (2007)
* From imbd

Jane Austen: My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.

Tom Lefroy: A metropolitan mind may be less susceptible to extended juvenile self-regard.

Tom Lefroy: If you wish to practice the art of fiction, to be considered the equal of a masculine author, experience is vital.

Tom Lefroy: If you wish to practice the art of fiction, to be the equal of a masculine author, experience is vital.
Jane Austen: I see. And what qualifies you to offer this advice?
Tom Lefroy: I know more of the world.
Jane Austen: A great deal more, I gather.
Tom Lefroy: Enough to know that your horizons must be... widened.

Tom Lefroy: ...your horizons must be... widened, by an extraordinary young man.
Jane Austen: By a very dangerous young man, one who has, no doubt, infected the hearts of many a young... young woman with the soft corrup...
Tom Lefroy: Read this
[hands Jane a book]
Jane Austen: -tion...
Tom Lefroy: and you will understand.

Jane Austen: This, by the way, is called a country dance, after the French, contredanse. Not because it is exhibited at an uncouth rural assembly with glutinous pies, execrable Madeira, and truly anarchic dancing.
Tom Lefroy: You judge the company severely, madam.
Jane Austen: I was describing what you'd be thinking.
Tom Lefroy: Allow me to think for myself.
Jane Austen: Gives me leave to do the same, sir, and come to a different conclusion.

Tom Lefroy: I think that you, Miss Austen, consider yourself a cut above the company.
Jane Austen: Me?
Tom Lefroy: You, ma'am. Secretly.

Mrs. Radcliffe: Of what do you wish to write?
Jane Austen: Of the heart.
Mrs. Radcliffe: Do you know it?
Jane Austen: Not all of it.
Mrs. Radcliffe: In time, you will. But even if that fails, that's what the imagination is for.

John Warren: And the famous Mrs. Radcliffe, is she as Gothic as her novels?
Jane Austen: Not in externals. But her internal landscape is, I suspect, quite picturesque.
Mr. Wisley: True of us all.

Rev Austen: Nothing destroys spirit like poverty.

Henry Austen: Careful, Jane, Lucy is right. Mr. Lefroy does have a reputation.
Jane Austen: Presumably as the most disagreeable
[writing]
Jane Austen: "... insolent, arrogant, impudent, insufferable, impertinent of men. "
Jane Austen: [pauses] Too many adjectives.

Jane Austen: [after Tom loses a boxing match] Forgive me if I suspect in you a sense of justice.
Tom Lefroy: I am a lawyer. Justice plays no part in the law.
Jane Austen: Is that what you believe?
Tom Lefroy: I believe it. I must.

Rev Austen: If a woman happens to have a particular superiority, for example, a profound mind, it is best kept a profound secret. Humour is liked more, but wit? No. It is the most treacherous talent of them all.

Jane Austen: A novel must show how the world truly is, how characters genuinely think, how events actually occur. A novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions.

Jane Austen: [reading Pride and Prejudice] "She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was a union that must have been to the advantage of both. By her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was."

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It feels that I'm making up my own unit study on Jane Austen. But it's a fun mix of movies and books so I'm having tons of fun. I believe that a lot of really good literature comes alive on the big screen. (If it hadn't been for the black and white classic movie of Romeo and Juliet on betamax tape, I would never have understood what Shakespeare intended with his play. After all, it was meant to be performed.)

Here's my unit study on Jane Austen so far:

1. Start with this movie ---> The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

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2. You can pick up the list of Jane Austen's novels in the same order as it was tackled in the movie. But I found myself following my own path and have been happy to meander in old England on my own.

P.S. Upon hindsight, I've also previously watched Pride and Prejudice (2005) as well as Sense and Sensibility (1995). I loved them both.

3. I found this book after searching for Emma from every branch of Powerbooks and Fullybooked I could.

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I have a hunch it's going to be my favorite Jane Austen novel. But I'll reserve my opinion after reading Pride and Prejudice.

I like the Simon & Schuster Enriched Classic edition of Persuasion by Jane Austen because it has a very brief introduction to the life and times of Austen, including a timeline of the historical context of the novel and author. It also has extensive notes, a summary of characters and themes throughout the novel, plus recommended readings and movies at the end of the book.

Going backward from the last and most mature of her novels, it is interesting to discover how a younger and more romantic perspective on life shaped her earlier novels. Interestingly, it is Austen's novels that tackle the duality of both passion/heart/romance and logic/reason/mind which are the most popular.

In that way, I think, more people are able to relate to that general unknown of what it actually means to choose between the two. It is the idea of the choice that makes it interesting more than making a choice per se.

While what attracts me to Persuasion is that Jane/Anne has made her choice, has lived with it, and gets a combined bittersweet happy/dire ending. At the moment that she finally gets her happy ending, she is forced to part with it when Wentworth goes off to war.

Spoiler: After watching Becoming Jane (2007) and watching Austen's own love life go unfulfilled, the blur between the author and her fictional character starts to blur. But I believe that this makes the novel more sincere, more real. P.S. Watch how characters from other Jane Austen movies come alive.

4. Watch Persuasion (1995).

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5. Picked up a cheap copy of Sense and Sensibility at a used bookstore. Took ages for me to read. Very, very slow plot development, little dialogue and not much descriptive language.

It's interesting to compare the book with the movie starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Especially the characters they chose to be the most interesting, i.e. they cut out Lady Middleton's character so it's kinda weird to see a son-in-law, Sir John Middleton, and mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, act like a married couple.

Still worth reading but I think the movie is more fun than the book.

6. Just watched Becoming Jane (2007).

It's kinda weird to see American actors playing British historical people, but fine. Anne Hathaway doesn't do a bad job. She reminds me of a young Julia Roberts. I can compare her performance to Keira Knightley's in Pride and Prejudice (2005).

Maybe it was because, plot-wise, the novel Pride and Prejudice was the fictional happy ending of Jane Austen ending up with a rich, independent Thomas Lefroy (in Mr. Darcy) that Keira Knightley's performance showed how much she enjoyed the role.

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Anne Hathaway, although brilliant and convincing, maybe because she was indeed working with what the role and script demanded, never actually convinced that she was Jane Austen. Often, she'd fall into inconsistent accents, awkward dialogue intrusions (saying "mum" out of nowhere), contrived speech and actions.

(An old officemate once criticized that the reason the dialogue in The Hours (2002), and essentially Virginia Woolf in the movie, sounded stilted was because the language was copied from her letters/journal entries. Her comment was: "People don't talk that way in real life. You talk in a different way from how you write in your journal.")

Excerpts on Becoming Jane (2007) from Wikipedia:

"The movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes, rates the movie as "rotten" with a 57 percent approval rating. Supporters of the movie praised the original screenplay, which was derived from biographies and letters of Jane Austen, the late 18th century costumes, the original soundtrack (orchestrated by Adrian Johnston) and solid performances by a leading cast."

"Some reviewers have questioned the historical accuracy of the movie; for example, one promotional poster shows Austen holding a fountain pen. The creators of Becoming Jane have clearly stated, however, that it is not a biopic in spite of using many historical facts from Jane Austen’s life. The co-producer of the film, Graham Broadbent, explained that they "joined the dots in our own Austenesque landscape". Criticisms of the film's historical accuracy have led to increased public interest in the facts of Jane Austen's life, reflected in her novels, letters and in biographies.""

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Conclusion:

I love that my love for movies has led me back to my first love, a love of books.

I love that movies help make beloved characters, even a dead white English writer, come alive.

I love that going back to the original books, after watching the movies, you get a more accurate sense of what the writer meant with their work, only because a movie has already showed you how some people look at the work. It is a living classroom. A director, a scripwriter, some really good actors, an entire film industry are right there teaching, learning, entertaining right alongside you.

I do believe that more classrooms would have more students interested in learning anything, be it literature or world history, if they put down the books and textbooks for a time and turned to the value of movies and especially cable channels such as the History channel.

Literature and history are living, breathing things. They come alive when we open a book or watch a show on the History channel. A book holds new meaning, new landscapes of imagination because a new reader is perpetually learning something new and adding his own meaning into it. History is not dead. It is ever changing, shifting, people are discovering new things everyday. Even historical facts we took for granted as facts become obsolete, like Pluto being demoted from being a planet to a dwarf planet.

The challenge is placed squarely on the shoulders of parents and teachers as they teach a new generation about the world we live in.

I hope someday my son Matt will find something he is as passionate about to obsess about, to want to learn on his own about, and maybe to even make some sort of contribution, even if it is just a simple blog entry like this one.

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