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A Jane Austen education : how six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter
2011
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Literary
Topics
Literary critics
Intellectual life
Books and reading
Influence
Personal growth
Personal narratives
Setting
- United States
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  Library Journal Review

Janeites face the necessity of defending their favorite author against dismissive detractors who say that Austen's world was too insular, and thus she wrote works of mere romantic confection. Deresiewicz (formerly English, Yale Univ.; Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets) agreed with this sentiment until, as a doctoral student beginning his dissertation in English literature, he began studying Austen's works. He then came to appreciate that Austen was actually a deft, often satirical observer of the society in which she lived. But this book is not strictly literary criticism; it's a memoir. As the son of a harsh, overbearing immigrant father, Deresiewicz developed a detached attitude that served him badly in personal and social relationships. He found that through lessons learned in studying Austen's themes, he was able to subjugate his ego, cultivate kindness, and realize the necessity of perpetual growth in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. VERDICT Of the plethora of books about Austen's life and work, this is a standout as it addresses the timelessness of Austen's themes to prove the ­personal-and universal-relevance of literature. -Lisa Guidarini, Algonquin P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
An eloquent memoir of a young man's life transformed by literature. <br> <br> In A Jane Austen Education , Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.<br> <br> A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.<br> <br> Weaving his own story-and Austen's-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their sides.<br> <br> A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.<br> <br> Watch a Video
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