SHARE

Austen

Jane Austen’s novels boast more than ball gowns and busy­bodies.

According to Assistant Pro­fessor of English Dwight Lindley, “Pride and Prej­udice” and its com­panions depict human char­acter in a way from which both male and female readers can benefit. In his lecture “Why Men Should Read Jane Austen” on Oct. 9, Lindley argued that men shouldn’t be repelled by the stigma of fem­i­ninity in her novels.

“Our men today have been edu­cated to favor certain kinds of thinking over others,” he said.

Austen tran­scends stereo­types because she is a master of nar­rative, char­acter reading, and prob­a­bility, Lindley said. Aris­totelian in her phi­losophy, Austen uses her knowledge of human char­acter to con­struct real­istic nar­ra­tives and predict behavior. Studying and emu­lating these methods enables readers to better under­stand them­selves.

Over 60 stu­dents, parents, and pro­fessors attended the lecture. Almost half of the attendees were male.

Sophomore Dustin Pletan said after attending the lecture, he realized Austen’s books are not about women but people.

“Jane Austen is so quin­tes­sen­tially fem­inine,” Pletan said. “I always thought her novels were about the psy­chology of women, but Dr. Lindley’s thesis made me see the male char­acters in a new light.”

Sophomore Ilsa Epling, an officer of the Cravats and Blue­stockings, which held the talk, said she first gained appre­ci­ation for Jane Austen through a Hillsdale College high school trip, but the lecture made her even more intrigued.

“I know the talk was geared at men, but I was never much of a fan of romance novels as a child,” Epling said. “So to dis­cover Jane Austen and romance novels that were engaging and exciting was a won­derful expe­rience. Then, to come and talk about other aspects besides the romance — like the analysis of the char­acters and what we can learn from them — is just fas­ci­nating.”

Already a fan of Austen prior to the lecture, junior Jared Eckert attended the talk to hear more about her nar­rative style.

“Her works have con­tinued to interest me, espe­cially after reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s ‘After Virtue,’ in which he argues that she is one of the defenders of the nar­rative con­ception of self. In other words, Austen’s char­acters, in order to be intel­li­gible, are fun­da­men­tally shaped in a large part by their per­sonal history, culture, and rela­tion­ships,” Eckert said. “For guys not to read Austen is to miss out on some great, worth­while lit­er­ature that really explores what it means to be human — what it means to be a good human — in a fruitful way.”