A friend recently brought my attention to this New Yorker article, about the history of reading for pleasure. I'd always assumed this was something that had always been done, but as it turns out, the notion of reading for pleasure really developed during the period from about 1750-1850.
This places Austen's work in a new light. She was part of that early few generations of people who read because they enjoyed it. Novels were not merely moral stories, to be learned from and quoted, but for entertainment.
And Austen's role in further shaping the act of reading for pleasure cannot be underestimated. To understand my title, go check out the article, and Gilbert Ryle's delightful quote when he was asked if he read novels. There are a number of works that were produced between the years 1750 and 1850, but how many of them are so very entertaining as to be worth reading, over and over again?
Jane Austen didn't just create brilliant novels; she created some of the first enjoyable novels. She took a new and developing genre, and produced stories that could be enjoyed, time and time again, and that people could continue to relate to, 200 years later. I continue to be in awe of what she did.
I'm a guest at Austenesque Reviews today, talking about these very things !
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