A Jane Austen Education: Even More Than I Learned From Clueless

BlogHer Review

Okay, I'll be honest. I've read very few of Jane Austen's actual novels. Two to be exact. And they weren't my favorite books. However, I've found that I love reading or watching anything about Jane Austen or based on Jane Austen's novels. Jane Austen Book Club? Loved it. Becoming Jane Austen? Fabulous. Movie versions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility? Ate them up. I mean, the costumes alone are incredible. Clueless? One of my all time favorite movies. (Granted that one is more of a stretch as a representation of Austen's novels, but I do love it!) So, I jumped at the chance to read and review A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz I think whether you're a true Jane Austen afficianado, or simply enjoy related works like I do, you'll enjoy the book.

Mr. Deresiewicz uses what he learned from studying the six Jane Austen novels to tell stories about his own life, and what he now knows to be important life lessons. He weaves the mistakes made by Emma, the Dashwoods, Elizabeth Bennet, and other Austen characters into tales about mistakes he's made in his own life. As the characters mature, so does the author.

My favorite lesson came from the chapter on Northanger Abbey, which Mr. Deresiewicz labels "Learning to Learn." I've spent most of my adult years teaching for a living. Sometimes teaching children, sometimes teaching adults. I could relate to this passage:

"I went from feeling that a good class was one in which I had 'gotten my points across' to regarding it as one in which I learned something myself -- not because my learning was the goal, but because if I had found out something new, it meant that I had given my students the freedom to think way beyond me.

A good teacher doesn't know all the answers, and the goal of teaching is not to impart one's vast knowledge upon one's students. The goal is to teach students how to find information for themselves, much as the author read Jane Austen's works and applied the lessons in the novels to his own journey into adulthood.

Reading Deresiewicz's interpretations of these familiar stories helped me focus on what's really important in my own life. And it made me eager to revisit some of those favorite Austen-based movies. No, I'm still not so much interested in reading the novels, but I did enjoy reading this book!


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