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Lecture 21 - 131125.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
Deidre Lynch

Lecture 21 – 131125 Take-home final questions distributed on Wednesday Second paper due Friday (Nov. 29) (hand it in or email it) Emma - Ever, Jane is a game in which gossip is the weapon of choice - The sorts of characters we want to find in our novels is to root for the heroine without riches and with disadvantages - Gossip is Emma’s favourite activity - Charades (riddles) in vol. 1 - The Riddle was written by an actor in an anthology The New Foundling Hospital for Wit o This is a suggestive name since riddle as a form sets signs wandering free from what we take to be their origins in things o Language can be set from its origins in things - Lots of mystifying of origins because of many confusions of authors in vol. 1 o Who wrote Mr. Elton’s riddle on his supposed declaration to Harriet? - The portrait that Emma paints of Harriet and Mr. Elton is so taken by o Emma believes that Mr. Elton is so in love with Harriet but it can also be read as Mr. Elton being in love with the person who is portraying - The piano is also another example of a sign cut loose from strict meaning o It’s not a subtle gift but could cause all sorts of inconvenience o It is also like an anonymous letter – what it means changes according to what one decides about the source  It means one thing from Colonel Campbell (her guardian), another thing if it’s from Mrs. Dixon (her foster sister), another thing again if it’s from Mr. Dixon, and another if it’s from Mr. Knightley (showing that he does love her)  Emma assumes Mr. Dixon sent it to Jane as a token of their past love - Detective novel – what can story can Emma spin out of this? - “and once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn’t know how to address the right people, and not address the wrong, And when it is ill-treated and unfairly abused it always needs its parent to come to its help, being unable to defend or help itself.” – Plato, Phaedrus o Socrates complaint of writing o Oddly fanciful account of writing as a wandering orphan (that is the heart of the novel tradition in thinking that Harriet is good material for an author) o Impoverishment of context when dealing with writing  Writing is static and it doesn’t have its parent (author) to help out o People generally say that literature began with riddles o In some ways, because it is different and we think of writing as a substitute of speech and we don’t think of paintings as substitute of speech, writing is a direct substitute for speech and not other arts o Gossip, too, is this kind of parentless drift that Socrates is complaining about  It drifts all over the place and it lands on the hands of those who do and don’t understand  If you gossiped, one thing you’d notice is that it’s in the air (a rumour being circulated and it’s being circulating not knowing who’s doing the circulating) - Austen is interested in how rumours work o Pg. 16: Mr. Woodhouse not in favour of weddings, and against wedding cakes; he seems to consult Mr. Perry on about everything and he seems to agree on his opposition – “There was a strange rumour in Highbury…wouldn’t believe it.”  Austen is interested in the circulation of information without the human medium - Gossip also involves disavowal of authorship o Anthropologists call gossip a weapon of the weak o The term gossip comes from “God’s sip” – word for people who stand sponsor for children for Christian baptism or christening o Some of the resources that women have to improve their existence is through gossip  What was once elevated become lowers and looked down upon  Something that women do and fill their days with o Austen is gendering gossip and she knows how she’s using it - Emma love gossip and she does it because she’s bored (her sister left, her governess left, her father could care less) - Vol. 2, ch. 1, pg. 125: she calls on the Bates “an ingenious…” o Emma has an ulterior motive in gossiping o It’s no accident that it’s Jane (she doesn’t like Jane) o Emma starts the idea but Austen describes it as coming from the outside, entering Emma’s brain as if she needs some stimulation from outside o “animating” – stale, motionless lives being animated; needing that stimulation to be shocked back into life again o There is an ulterior motive and it’s not just news for news sake (“insidious”) o Gossip has a bad reputation because it does seem to have some element of enmity - Vol. 2, ch. 8, pg. 166-167: “With Tuesday came…” o She wants to imagine herself as the third person subject of the gossip – she wants to be in a story and be the subject of rumours herself o Frank is an ally in the endeavour o Ms. Bates is also another subject of the gossips - Ms. Bates is pretty smart o Vol. 2, ch. 3, pg. 138: “Yes, yes…how does Miss Smith do?”  She also speaks in riddles too because we have to fill in the blanks too (like charades)  When filling in the sentences, we can find out what she knows: she knows about Mr. Elton’s professing of his love for Emma, and she knows that Emma thought he was interested in Harriet  Not owning up to being the source of the rumour – she doesn’t come out and directly state what she means but give enough to point out what she’s referring to o Emma is ready to mock Ms. Bates – Emma can do a fantastic Ms. Bates imitation  Vol. 2, ch. 8, pg. 177: “How would he bare…do not mimic her.”
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