Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mark Twain Hated Jane Austen

"Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the head with her own shin bone."

That scathing criticism of one of English literature's most beloved novels came from perhaps the sharpest wit in all of American literature, Mark Twain. And I can't help but think of the quote every time I hand the book to a seventeen-year-old male in my AP Lang & Comp class.

Of course, Mark Twain is not the only person who had nothing but contempt for Jane Austen.  Despite the incredible staying power of Jane Austen and her six novels, she can be a target for criticism of all the sappy romanticism that annoys the realists of the world. And, that's not helped by the cottage industry of Jane Austen derivatives that has risen up in the past decade or so.

This homage to Romanticism's staying power can certainly alienate all the men who are dragged to the latest romantic-comedy "chick flick," or the adolescent males who are subjected to stories of courtship and dancing in their honors English classes. However, there is a lot of value in the satire and social criticism that Austen offered, which is something Twain should have been able to appreciate.

What do you think?

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