Jane Austen: Psychic?!

The answer is actually yes. Not necessarily to the extent where in her novels, she can foretell the fact that you’ll have 3 kids, a husband that has a finger in real estate with a medium-sized house three towns over from where you live now. Yikes.

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But really, what I’m trying to get around to is the fact that Jane Austen predicted the way we love today (Dr. Stephen Trainor). One of the books we were assigned to read was Persuasion written by the very Jane Austen. *SPOILER ALERT* *but also not really, because we all know how Austen novels end* The tale is about a woman, Anne, who falls in love with a man, Wentworth when she’s 19. However, the man doesn’t have the status suitable enough for Miss Elliot, so they have to split. 8 years later, Anne and Wentworth find each other again, thus kindling the love that never actually left them. So romantic, I know.

In class yesterday, Dr. Trainor discussed with us that Austen abandons the notion of venus, sex without love, arranged marriage. Instead, her characters follow more of an eros path, romantic love based on personal choice. However, she sets herself apart from Shakespeare and Hardy (the two writers we have explored so far) by branching off from the idea of love at first sight.

Austen instead takes it a step further by creating a formula for love:

Love = Emotion + Time + Judgement

In this novel, Anne and Wentworth most certainly take this formula into account. First, they feel emotions for each other. Even after 8 years of disconnection, they never fully leave each other’s minds and hearts. Regarding time, they sure as hell gave it time! 8 damn years! We’re lucky today if someone will watch all 10 seconds of our Snapchat. Finally, judgement is most certainly a factor. In the novel, Anne and Wentworth are surrounded by well-mannered people who know how to hold themselves. However, Anne and Wentworth look deeper than manners. What they look for is character- the quality of the person and who they truly are.

What I really love about Dr. Trainor’s class is how I can tie in many of the ideas he brings forth to both my personal and academic life. Last semester, I took a Sexual Ethics course with Dr. Anthony LoPresti. The class was one of my favorites I’ve taken at Salve so far. However, there was one section in the course that stood out to me most and it was the section about love.

One of the handouts we were assigned to read was In Pursuit of Love written by Vincent Genovesi. In this passage, he defines love as

The free decision to respond to and nurture the beauty and potential that I see in another human being.

This definition goes hand-in-hand with what Austen proposes. While Austen doesn’t deny the idea of love at first sight, she takes true love a step further with the addition of time and judgement. In his article, Genovesi does just the same. He differentiates between infatuation and mature love.

Infatuation as “the high-voltage, circuit-blowing infatuation we’ve all experienced when we connect with someone new. It’s the intoxication of being accepted and desired. It’s the thrill of taking a leap, shedding clothes and inhibitions, being dazzled by the private magnificence of another.”

Works like Romeo and Juliette focus on this sparked love that burns fast and bright. What Genovesi and Austen are saying, however, is that what makes this love pure and true is the addition of time, judgement, commitment.

Genovesi, when describing mature love more as a “marathon of the heart.” It requires training, discipline, endurance and work. It is not a spectator sport or an event whose outcome can be decided in seconds. It is pushing up hills and suffering pain and resisting the temptation to drop out. . . . When love is viewed as an act of will, . . . it .can survive as long as your heart beats. Put another way, while being in love may sometimes lead to marriage, it’s love that makes a marriage last. More specifically; it’s the deliberate, active commitment implied by love that lies at the core of conjugal bliss.”

I know that is a lot of words in one paragraph. But re-reading Genovesi’s ideas, I couldn’t find any part of these definitions that could be left out. He later emphasizes that infatuation can indeed evolve into mature love- after time and judgement (Austen would approve).

So, maybe Romeo and Juliette would have been able to keep the passion that they had, while allowing their love to evolve into something more stable and sensible.

I just thought I’d share that pretty cool connection I made. Shoutout to Dr. Trainor for putting these awesome thoughts in my head.


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