On polishing Jane Austen’s halo

My American friend Peggy who, several years ago, very generously sent me the Pride and Prejudice Game, has now sent me a link to a short interview – with a transcript – conducted on NPR (National Public Radio) with Dr Kathryn Sutherland. Sutherland is the academic who has been researching Austen‘s manuscripts for the last three years and whose quoted-around-the-world comments I discussed briefly in a recent post.

This interview contains statements by Sutherland that are similar to those she made in a BBC interview (in a link provided by blogger Arti in her comment on my previous post). In Peggy’s link, Sutherland says that she has received some negative reactions to her comments. Not surprising, I suppose, given what was clearly out-of-context seantionalist reporting.

Anyhow, this is what she said to the NPR interviewer:

I’ve heard a range of responses. And I have had some very extreme and, I have to say, unpleasant responses to my work. All I can say is that, you know, as critics we should just stop polishing her halo.

There are very few authors that we put in this extraordinary position where we feel that we should never say anything critical about them. She can stand up to it. She’s interesting. She’s experimental. She’s an extraordinary writer. The idea that we can never question what she wrote I think is absolute nonsense.

Can’t say fairer than that …

4 thoughts on “On polishing Jane Austen’s halo

  1. My main objection to Austen is that her prose is all a bit tidy and even a little trite and arch sometimes in its neat observations (reminding me slightly of a Monty Python sketch where George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde tossed bon mots at each other), so I think the news that she was edited – or possibly over-edited – doesn’t detract from her reputation at all

    • LOL zmkc. If you feel that way then you’d porbably like her letters as there’s no editing there. They include some tedious details but some wonderful off the cuff Austen bite without the tautness of the novels. Must say I don’t mind the tidy prose but when I return form Hong Kong will try to remember to give some lovely quotes from her letters.

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