E.M. Dadlez, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma, this week published an article which puts Jane Austen fans into two separate camps. One side is for Pride and Prejudice and Emma, while the other one emphatically embraces the Austen of Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. “One cannot love both, not equally, not without reservations about one or the other set of works, even if one likes and admires all of Austen’s writing.”
We were intrigued by this and read further.
The heroines of these novels are near opposites, but each novel provides the same clear, strong focus on issues involving autonomy and autonomous agency. They just do so from diametrically opposed perspectives.
Perhaps the kind of preference which Austen lovers are wont to note involves a preference for one or the other of the following: an interest in forging independence or an interest in respecting that of others, an interest in self-development and autonomous agency, or an interest in recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others. Emma and Persuasion are both stories of change and self-development and maturation, one chronicling a turning inward and self reflection, the next describing a turning outward and a venturing forth into the world.
At the Jane Austen Centre, visitors do often say that they have a strong preference for either Emma or for Persuasion, but perhaps this might explain why. A highly interesting hypothesis either way.
The full article can be accessed here.