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Thursday, November 17, 2005

ENGL 3621: Concerning Frances Burney...

...and NOT Francesca Bruni.


I've read snippets of her journals in a previous class (and by snippets, I truly mean snippets -- twenty pages of this book, tops), so I was not unfamiliar with her journal writing style. The letters were completely new, however.

Thoughts that occurred to me while reading this through, in no particular order (of importance or otherwise):

There's certainly a profound irony in the fact that she is pretending that nobody will read her thoughts; yet today she’s very widely read within academic circles. I wonder if, had she known the eventual fate her journal was to have, she would have written it differently.

On a related note, I’m given to wonder at a possible theatrical element to her journal writings. (The incident with Mr. Barlow’s proposal in 1775.) This is something she worried about herself, of course, in fleeting moments of self-doubt: “How truly does this journal contain my real & undisguised thoughts?”

Her father obviously had a huge effect on her, and a great deal of sway over her even in her adult life. She was quite willing to take on all comers in the matter of Mr. Barlow’s proposal, frex, as long as it didn’t include her father: "I felt the utter impossibility of resisting not merely my father’s persuasion, but even his advice." Mind, ultimately she chose to marry d'Arblay against her father's wishes, so I suppose his influence had limits.

"My dear, faithful, ever attentive Nobody" I’m tempted to start writing out my blog entries with a "dear Internet," as an imitative polar opposite of Burney’s own dedications.

On second thought, nah. It's not nearly as witty as I thought it would be on first blush.

I can’t figure out whether or not she actually likes Swift. She’s frequently quoting him, but the context in which she uses those quotes have an ironic spin; using a quote from "The Furniture of a Woman’s Mind," for example, to upbraid a misogynist.

I forgot just how much Samuel Johnson seemed to adore her. (this sticks out in my mind because I’m something of a Johnson fan). The respect seemed to be mutual. I'd never previously read their first encounter, though; he didn't seem to make much of a good impression upon her at first.

The contrast of Burney’s reception to those of previous women authors is sharp; she was embraced and celebrated by the (male) literary giants of her time, where others suffered from rebuke. Similarly, she was admitted into literary circles and given respect for her achievements, though I often get the impression that she was often regarded as something of a "junior" member by virtue of her age, gender, or both. Regardless, this allowed her to be quite prolific, to the point where the critics noted her ten-year literary silence later in life. In previous times, the norm seemed to be to make one publication (if that), and then return to silence for good.

On Ms. W----, whom Burney converses with at Bath: I’m convinced that this woman has been reincarnated as a goth. Either that, or an RPG gamer. But then, after the 90’s, there’s been quite a bit of crossover between those categories, so the difference might not be particularly meaningful.

Incidentally, I find I really like the descriptive phrase, "a young and agreeable infidel."

The encounter with the king in the gardens is still as hilarious as the first time I read it.

Similarly, her account of her masectomy is as compelling as it was the first time I read it.

Sorry for the rather random order of the insights. By way of apology, allow me to show you a glimpse of what I did this halloween:

Dr. Victor von Doom is from eastern europe, where they really know how to party. He's on the look-out for a few good minions, so watch out! No meddlesome bunch of do-gooders, and certainly no bedrooms, can stand before his unbridled genius. All will serve Doom, baby!

Turn-ons include: World domination, unholy mixes of magic and science, ancient castles, and the i-pod nano.

Turn-offs include: Big rock-skinned morons, anybody who dares think himself the equal of Doom, meddlesome do-gooders in general, and squirrels.

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 12:22 AM


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