Monday, 13 June 2011

A QUESTION OF GENTLEMANLINESS: PROFESSOR MARK T. MITCHELL'S BLOGS ON JANE AUSTEN

Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing (ISI Books, 2006) and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, forthcoming). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry (ISI Books, forthcoming). Currently he is writing a book on private property. 

What has he got to do with Jane Austen? Fact is, he is one the most brilliant editors at Front Porch Republica great site about politics, social issues and culture and there he has  posted three brilliant pieces Jane Austen related which I've found out and read with great interest. You know how rare it is to find an objective male point of view on our beloved authoress and once I bump into a very special one, I have to share!
1. Why We Need Jane Austen 
In this article Professor Mark T. Mitchell tells about his experience teaching a course that included literary works including Pride and Prejudice: 


"Reading Pride and Prejudice with a group of bright and interested students has been a delight. Austen can charm students in 2011 and, given the multitude of voices and volumes competing for their attention, this is no small feat. But what, exactly, is it that makes Austen such a good teacher today? The question, itself, suggests that Austen is more than a good read, more than an escapist literary drug, more than a comedy of manners.
 I want to suggest that Austen provides something for which young people—even the jaded ones—secretly long. While the world she depicts is in many ways foreign to us, it is only just different enough to bring our own pathologies into clearer relief. In short, Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed"


2. Pride and Prejudice and Porn

In this article, Prof. Mitchell reflects on the phenomenon of rape on college campuses, and again he finds Austen the best of teachers and longs for the gentleman's return.

"Of course, the issue of rape on college campuses gets fuzzy when the subject of “date rape” enters the picture. This is made all the more confusing when alcohol is added to the mix. Does regretting a sexual encounter the morning after a drunken binge qualify as rape? Clearly not, but the haze of alcohol or other substances surely impairs judgment, memory, and communication.
Nevertheless, the advent of the so-called hook-up culture has fostered expectations among young men that encounters with co-eds naturally lead to no-strings-attached sex. Sex is not preceded by an altar, commitment, “I love you”, or even a decent conversation. In a hook-up culture anonymous sex is not a scandal but, it would seem, the ideal, for when sex is depersonalized, it cannot lead to the complications associated with affection, vulnerability, and the desire to sacrifice for the good of the other person".

3. Attributes of the Gentleman or Mr Darcy's Rules of Engagements

After writing the first two articles, Prof. Mitchell was invited by a group of college men to lead a discussion about the idea of the gentleman. He is sure that, even in a democratic age, where social classes are fluid and poorly demarcated, the gentleman is characterized by the same  five attributes as Jane Austen's  Darcy:


1.the gentleman has a firm sense of propriety
2. the gentleman is amiable and to be amiable he has to be friendly. 
3. the gentleman possesses constancy
4.the gentleman is willing to sacrifice for others
 5. a gentleman can admit he’s wrong

 discover more reading the whole article


Professor Mitchell  is convinced that (especially) men  have a great deal to learn from Jane Austen's world. He discusses these issues from his political/social point of view , never too abstract or theoretical because based on common sense and related to the contemporary social reality. How interesting!


2 comments:

maribea said...

I love Jane Austen and I love 19th century as a whole. I think the main reason is that I find in this century what my soul needs: a sense of elegance, dignity and respect that seems to be forgotten or despised nowadays. I'm sure we all long for gentle and cultivated behaviour.

Luthien84 said...

Thanks Maria for pointing us to the illuminating articles. I agree it's interesting to read the point-of-view of a male esp from the academic section.