Why We Read Jane Austen

"Why We Read Jane Austen." Times Literary Supplement, March 1976, 250-252.


My subject is of a speculative kind and as it develops it will lead us away from Jane Austen and toward the consideration of certain aspects and functions of literature and art generally. It does not have its origin in reflections upon our author’s canon of work in itself but was proposed by a phenomenon of our contemporary high culture, the large and ever-growing admiration which Jane Austen’s work is being given. This phenomenon may be thought the more significant because, contrary to what would have been the case at an earlier time, young people have a salient part in it, and what I shall begin by talking about is the intensity of feeling which students at my university directed to Jane Austen when I gave a course in her novels two years ago.

Google Books - essay in The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent