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Friday, May 11, 2012

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Jane Austen


Sense & Sensibility
by Jane Austen
p. 1811
T. Egerton


Sense & Sensibility
d. Ang Lee
p. 1995
screen play by Emma Thompson
135 million gross world-wide.

 You can watch the 1995 movie on Netflix Streaming, FYI.  I tempted to recommend the movie over the book, since the movie is directed by Ang Lee AND written by Emma Thompson AND stars a young Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, the younger sister.  Emma Thompson also stars in her own script as Elinor Dashwood, the older sister.  You've also got your Hugh Grant playing Edward Farrars AND- AND! Alan Rickman as Colonel Christopher Brandon.  BOOM-SHAKA LAKA.


  OK, OK.  One of the stylistic changes in the form of the Novel that Austen more or less "invented" was the quick open- wherein the initial status-altering scenario happens to the main characters at the beginning of the novel.  This is an aspect of the Novel that Dickens fully manipulated, and in Austen's contemporary Walter Scott you can see a prior approach- the use of real "documents" and the shifting of authorial identity to create a much more elaborate opening scenario.

  In the early 19th century, Austen knew that there was an Audience for novels about the "adventures" of young women.  She had read Samuel Richardson's Pamela, and all the subsequent books that referenced it, she had read Frances Burney, she had read Maria Edgeworth.  Significantly, Sense and Sensibility was originally written in epistolary format, and Austen abandoned it- a seminal moment- the moment she abandoned the epistolary format- the equivalent of the fusing of blues and country that created rock n roll.

  If you've read every major novel of the 1700s like I have, it's easy to see the different ways that Sense and Sensibility represents a colossal step forward in the development of the art form.  Specifically, Austen seems aware of the use of language in a way that would be quite foreign to writers just before her, and writers working at the same time.

Style aside, the genius of the plotting of Sense and Sensibility is that it is focused, that it covers both the relationship between the sisters and the relationships between the two sisters and their would-be (and wouldn't-be) swains.   Austen is relatively short on the depiction of social space, but long on depiction of inter personal relationships and the complexity of human emotion.

 Austen's characters are what you call "relate-able" and they always have been, because of their sophistication and depth.   1700s heroine's are like cardboard cut outs next to Marianne (younger sister/Kate Winselt in 1995) and Elinor (older sister/Emma Thompson in 1995.)


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