Members Meeting - March 18 2017

Emma - A Novel Study

Our March meeting brought several new faces to the Sunalta Community Centre. Welcome, to all those who are new to our wonderful group!

Jane discusses Emma

Jane discusses Emma

Jane began the novel study of Emma with the quote of Mr. Knightley, "Better to be without sense than to misapply it as you" as an opening to a discussion entitled Sense or Bias. 

We were introduced to the concept of the brain consisting of two levels: the higher, deliberate level; and the lower automatic level. The lower level consists of the reactionary side of us, the side that that simply reacts without thought. The higher level consists of the conscious thoughts and reactions that are based upon our lower level of learned instincts. Unconscious bias is a quick judgment-based reaction based on limited facts and life experience and which is often times inaccurate. It was generally agreed that Emma is the embodiment of quick judgments based on limited facts and life experience.

Jane invited us to participate in several exercises in which she presented a subject and we were called upon to give our initial impressions. These included a farmer (Robert Martin), a gentleman (Mr. Woodhouse), a vicar's wife (Mrs. Elton), and a governess (Miss Taylor). It was so interesting to hear from our group the various 'snap' reactions to these positions and the various ways in which Jane Austen had treated these characteristics. Mrs. Elton, for example, is hardly the picture of generosity and good will which one might envision as a vicar's wife.

I Like Pewter Too: Jane, Books, Money

Next, Amber spoke about money and titled her presentation "I like Pewter Too: Jane, Books and Money". Amber discussed everything from the importance of marriage as a means of acquiring wealth to the importance of the circulating library in society. The process of publication in Jane Austen's time was explored, particularly the 'money' element behind all of her books.

Amber discusses Jane, Books, and Money

Amber discusses Jane, Books, and Money

  • her publishers

  • the means of publication (commissioned versus selling the copyright)

  • the profit realized by Jane for each of her novels

It was quite amusing to note how the author was reflected in each successive work. Amber cheerfully pointed out that by the time Emma was published, Jane Austen was described as "the author of Pride and Prejudice". She also noted that sadly, Jane's use of irony which is arguably one of the strengths of her writing, was generally unnoticed.

Amber discussed how Emma blunders about, with very little understanding of the monetary motivations of the people around her. Its importance simply did not register with her, which made it difficult for Emma to understand the characteristics of her friends and neighbours. Amber finished by summarizing the different attitudes to money expressed by different characters throughout the book and the role it played in defining them.

After tea, Jane gave a second brief presentation about the argument that Emma changed the face of fiction. We all enjoyed a dynamic discussion about the elements of Emma that were striking or perhaps even somewhat controversial and their effect on the world of literature and fiction in particular.

Finally, a group of members read an excerpt of "Austensibility: A Portrait of Jane Austen" written by Alan Richardson. The reading was well received and added a special element to top off our meeting.

Thank you Jane, Amber and everyone else for your contributions.