Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Little Jane Austen to Combat the Boredom

All of the illustrations in this posting are from the C.E. Brock illustrated copy of Northanger Abbey from 1922. His illustrations are my favorite so far and it's my idyllic dream to own a complete set of Brock illustrated Austen.

Today was an awesome day for boredom.

By awesome, though, I mean that if I hadn't been bored, I would have never gone to chat with Devin which means that Tiffany (his cube mate) wouldn't have shown up at the end of our conversation, so I would have never looked at her space and noticed a coffee mug from The Screwtape Letters on her desk. This coffee mug led to a conversation where I learned The Screwtape Letters is a live stage play of phenomonal impressiveness, according to Tiffany at least.

Then I searched for college courses on CS Lewis where I inevitably found the glorious website of Hillsdale College where entire courses of lectures are placed online, for free, for anyone interested in the topic.

My instinctive first response was to take the CS Lewis course, but then I noticed a course entitled The Young Jane Austen Northanger Abbey.

I was hooked by the word GO.

A part of my brain, probably a bigger part than I'd care to admit, has been bored ever since I graduated college almost 5 years ago. I'm not bored enough to go back to college and be stressed about exams and papers and discussions (at least not yet), but I'm desperate for intellectual literary stimulation that is almost impossible to find in my current job. I miss the stimulation of reading a book, writing down my thoughts about the plot, characters, themes, setting, etc.

I suppose that I could do it on my own, but I don't want to. I like being part of a group, part of a cohesive unit that is studying, reading, and listening to the same text and lectures. I know I won't be participating in online discussion which is part of the excitement of online coursework, but that's okay, I'll live.

Already I've learned that there's an actual genre for the novels that were popular in Jane Austen's day and especially the genre that Catherine Morland reads in Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen herself read both kinds of novels and they're called sentimental novels and gothic novels. The sentimental novels are about young beautiful, virtuous women who never had to strive at being either who face troubles that aren't too weird and eventually live happily ever after with a man as virtuous as themselves. The gothic novel throws in elements of the supernatural and horror (before there was such a thing in literature).

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe referenced in Northanger Abbey is a gothic novel. I've never read it myself, but I have to agree with Professor Murphy that this and other novels of the same ilk were predecessors to our own Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Even though I know I probably should read Udolpho, I probably won't just because the predictability of gothic novels at that time doesn't really appeal to me all that much.

Anyway, I've listened to the first 2 lectures and 2 Q&A sessions with the professor and the president of the college. It was a great way to spend 2 hours of my working day! I fought the temptation to start in on the 3rd lecture because I know that I really need to do the assigned reading which is chapters 1-9 of Northanger Abbey. I've read the novel a few times, but it's been long enough and I love it well enough to want to read it again.

What a great thing to look forward to every week!