This may be the most controversial post I have ever written. I didn’t always hate Jane Austen, and my hatred is not one based in reason. Rather, it is a reactionary hate that started in an upper-level English Lit class in college. We read such thrilling novels in this class as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, E. M. Forster’s A Room With A View, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I could probably list our entire reading list, but I’ll spare you.
So this class was with a professor I really liked, and we had some really good discussions about culture and feminism and all that, and everything was going really well…until Pride and Prejudice. Now, before this class I would never have said that I was a fan of Austen, but I didn’t hate her either. I considered the subset of her books I had read as relatively neutral, perhaps with a positive bias. This was not so with my professor, or anyone else in my class. It was almost as if the course was specifically crafted to lead up to the shining moment we’d talk about Austen, the one writer ever to actually get it right. Never before or since have I heard “love” used to describe any book quite as much as in that classroom. Finally I got fed up with it, and chimed in with, “I didn’t like it that much.” Oh. My. Stars. A hush fell over the room, and everyone turned to me, staring at me as if I had just grown a shriveled hand out of the middle of my forehead. Naturally, I had to explain myself. I said that I understood what everyone saw in the book, but I didn’t find the dynamic between Darcy and Elizabeth blah blah blah. What matters is that I was now the class outcast, and this is why I now hate Jane Austen. She made me uncomfortable in English class that one time. Petty? Perhaps, but then I’m pretty sure most of she wrote is about petty stuff producing bizarrely strong emotional reactions. So I think she’d be proud.
We moved on, people continued extolling Austen as our literary Lord and Savior, and I managed to get back to my dorm without catching an annotated copy of Beowulf to the back of the head. And I continued living my life, hopelessly assuming I was the only one who bore the burden of not-really-liking-jane-austen. Until today, when I read this Dinosaur Comic (click it for full-sized goodness, and to pay your respects to its creator, and don’t forget the mouseover text) —
And just like that, I am no longer alone in the universe. Thank you, Ryan Q. North. Thank you so much.