Last week KT led a great Classics Challenge discussion involving Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion. As it so happens, I was also rereading that novel at the same time for the first time in five years. But since we’ve already discussed Persuasion (and I think I’ve been enthusiastically in favor of it enough on this blog), I’d like to broaden this Rereadings post and ask you about your rereadings of all Austen’s books.
One of the essays in Anne Fadiman’s Rereadings is called “Pemberley Revisted,” in which author Alllegra Goodman discusses her rereadings of Pride and Prejudice. She walks us through her rereadings as a teenager, as a know-it-all undergraduate, and as a twenty-nine-year-old who just lost her mother. Among many interesting questions in her essay, Goodman concludes,
“Is it possible that if you read Pride and Prejudice too young, the book is ruined for you? At what age should you read Jane Austen? At fifteen? Or twenty-nine? At thirty-six? … I reread the novel because I read it at nine. I return to it not because it is the best novel I have read, or the most important, but because of the memories and wishes I’ve folded in its pages–because on every reading I see old things in it.”
Assuming you do, I now ask: why do you reread Jane Austen? Is it for nostalgic, critical, or recreational reasons? And which do you reread when you do? Austen has a limited canon, which can be good and bad in terms of rereadings.
My own reasons are some mix of Goodman’s nostalgia, my own affection for the books, and a growing appreciation for the scholarship of Austen. Like Goodman, I’ve gone through cycles of experiencing and appreciating Austen, the most recent of which is a new-found appreciation for literary scholarship about Austen (for this change of heart, I firmly credit my co-blogger). As I’ve suggested throughout this series, each rereading of a book is often more about who you are when you reread the book than the book itself. Pride and Prejudice doesn’t change; the reader does, and I think it is that personal change that makes each rereading so interesting. I’d love to hear about yours, so sound off below.
Image courtesy of the Toll House Bookshop.