A Jane Austen Education

A Jane Austen Education

How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

Book - 2011
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An eloquent memoir of a young man's life transformed by literature.

In A Jane Austen Education , Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

Weaving his own story-and Austen's-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their sides.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.

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Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781594202889
Branch Call Number: 823.7 DER 2011 22
Characteristics: 255 p

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freckled2much
Sep 25, 2015

I really enjoyed this book and the author's perspectives on Austen's works (and snippets about her life and times). He had very thoughtful, not your average run-of-the-mill insights and applications of how her writing is relevant and meaningful and should not be overlooked or dismissed.

devorah1231 Dec 26, 2013

Disgusting. Not for those with purer minds. If you read trash, you may like it.

crankylibrarian Aug 01, 2013

" 'A Jane Austen Education'? " sneered a gentlemen of my acquaintance. "What's that; how to curtsy and dance a proper minuet?" "No, actually it's a book by a guy on how reading Jane Austen stopped him from being a jerk. Perhaps you'd like to borrow it?" Wonderful, painfully honest memoir by a formerly self-satisfied modern lit snob, who gained a healthy dose of humility and self-awareness by following in the fictional footsteps of Jane Austen's heroines. Ample proof that great literature transcends gender, time periods, and culture.

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moonshade
Jul 27, 2012

Hugely insightful, entertaining. Brilliant, in short.

Chitownchica Aug 09, 2011

I absolutely love this book and it is almost as if the author took the very words out of my mouth when I try to get folks that have never read Austen to give her books a try.

debwalker Jun 12, 2011

"In 1990, William Deresiewicz was on his way to gaining a Ph.D. in English literature at Columbia University. Describing that time in the opening pages of his sharp, endearingly self-effacing new book, “A Jane Austen Education,” Deresiewicz explains that he faced one crucial obstacle. He loathed not just Jane Austen but the entire gang of 19th-century British novelists: Hardy, Dickens, Eliot . . . the lot. ...The state of outraged hostility is, of course, a setup. Many of Deresiewicz’s readers will already know him as the author of the widely admired “Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets.” One of the novelist’s most appreciative critics isn’t about to knock Austen off her plinth. Nevertheless, a profound truth lies embedded in Deresiewicz’s witty account of his early animosity. He applies that comic narrative device to her six completed novels. Considered so, each work reveals itself as a teaching tool in the painful journey toward becoming not only adult but (one of Austen’s key terms of praise for characters she wishes us to respect) useful."
Miranda Seymour
NYT June 10, 2011

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