Alert Janeite Lisa G. sent us a link to a post at Jezebel deconstructing a recent episode of the Glenn Beck Show in which he mentions Jane Austen, and not in a complimentary way.
Now, we know that Janeiteville is a really big tent with a remarkable cross-section of people of all backgrounds. We’re sure some of our readers are big fans of Glenn Beck, and we are not here to comment upon that. We are only here to respond to the comments about her work that he makes in this particular program (and we beg our Gentle Readers to do the same).
In the second video clip, Mr. Beck says, while displaying some odd body language that looks like he wants to strangle someone:
You think of um, movies, from, you know, like those stupid bonnet movies, that, what’s her name, Emma Thompson is always in, those awful, you know, OOOOOOOHHHHHHH, Jane Austen, ugh, but anyway–sorry ladies–tortuous! But you see that, and they’re always so prim and proper, ‘oh, I don’t know if the captain will come home this week,’ and finger sandwiches, and that’s it.
Um, what? *hefts Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness* For a program that was given to an entirely female audience, this does not seem to be the way to go about winning friends amongst the Janeites; and it does not seem to be the way to win confidence from one’s audience, by belittling their entertainment choices and by belittling the work of a woman who did not take the view that many of her generation took–marriage with the first eligible man who comes along being “the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune”–and instead courageously sells her work and carves out a small living in a society that did not value fiction overmuch, especially that written by women. And we’re still reading it two hundred years later, which should tell you, if you’re paying attention, that it’s more than bonnets and finger sandwiches.
Do we have to bring out the line from Miss Austen Regrets again? “If that’s what you think Aunt Jane’s books are about, then you need to read them again.” Not that it appears that Mr. Beck has ever read them in the first place.
As far as “revisionism” in which 20th century “Marxists” purged history of women’s contributions, Catherine Morland has something to say about history books:
“Yes, I am fond of history.”
“I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all — it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention. The speeches that are put into the heroes’ mouths, their thoughts and designs – the chief of all this must be invention, and invention is what delights me in other books.”
“The men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all.” That was published in 1817. Revisionism, indeed. Now pray excuse us while we swing the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness for the fences.