Lounging around the girlfriend's house and not being very useful, out of morbid curiosity (I stay far away from classics), I picked up a book on literary authors innocently lying on the couch. It looked thin enough for a cursory reading within the hour.
Under Hesperus Press' Brief Lives series, Fiona Stafford wrote a short biography of Jane Austen, discussing her literary works within the context of the world she grew up in, how the glitzy lights of Bath could have influenced her writing. It's more to do with trying to guess the psyche of the writer who lived in tumultuous times in history without breathing any mention or references in her novels; why she remained single and how she sought to be a woman of her own fate in the 18th century.
"Although Jane Austen spent so much of her young adulthood planning her wardrobe and enjoying parties, writing remained crucial to her sense of self and general wellbeing. Her first surviving novel demonstrates the care that she devoted to her creative work during the 1790s, and the continuing force of her experimental spirit."
Fiona Stafford's overview provides a summary to Jane Austen's world. It doesn't delve into the writings and style of Jane Austen. Nothing analytical of that sort. Thank goodness, I say. Enough of that in school. I absolutely detest romantic fiction in any form. Even if her books strive to break out of an era abound with sentimental novels through comedy. Sure, living in a time where women gains a little more dependence, we haven't moved away from needing marriage to secure social standing and economic security. While I understand the writings are a reflection of society at that time, it doesn't make me feel less annoyed with all the women in her stories, especially Pride and Prejudice. I want to slap all the Bennet sisters. Truly. I want to shake Emma Woodhouse for being a meddling idiot. WTF.
While the realism in her novels is unmistakable, there's a widening gap between the academic appreciation of Austen, and the popular appreciation for the author. I'm clearly, not a Janeite. One could argue till the cows come home about the theories of post-colonialism and feminist in the books. They exist, one just needs to pick them out. BUT, those books are all the same about meddling women, muddling men and all the intrigue about love and relationships. I don't like this genre of books at all. I resent having to study them to pass school exams. ARRRRGH. The author clearly, isn't interested in anything else and that bores the hell out of me. 20th century interest in Austen, I'd assume is purely esoteric in the form of movie adaptations of her life, her novels and whatever.
The saving grace in Jane Austen, aside from the literary devices and narrative style of her books, is her choice to remain single. The real questions and research should be dedicated to the unspoken, to the thoughts she didn't articulate because that might mean more to readers in the 21st century who are exploring themes of independence and other shocking unmentionables not found in polite parlor and dinner conversations in the 18th century.