Sunday, December 20, 2009

Persuasions Article: Jane Austen on Resentment and Love

Persuasions On-Line

Some readers will recall from last summer and into the following autumn that I was working out my ideas on Darcy's love for -- and resentment of -- Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. My subsequent article, fittingly titled "Darcy's Ardent Love and Resentful Temper in Pride and Prejudice," has recently seen publication in the Winter 2009 issue of Persuasions On-Line.

I believe that I've previously posted preliminary stages of the introduction and the conclusion to this article, but just in case anyone is interested in the final form of each, I'll post both below -- starting, naturally, with the introduction:
In 1759, Adam Smith wrote in Part 3 of his Theory of Moral Sentiments that "Love does not judge of resentment, nor resentment of love. Those two passions may be opposite to one another, but cannot, with any propriety, be said to approve or disapprove of one another" (192). Kenneth Moler has argued that Smith's work on the sentiments exerted an influence on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, written some forty years later (567-69). Similarly, Peter Knox-Shaw examines Elizabeth Bennet's query, "'Is not general incivility [toward others than the beloved] the very essence of love?'" (160) and finds in it an echo of Smith's observation in Moral Sentiments (Pt. 1) that "though a lover may be good company to his mistress, he is so to nobody else" (87-88, n. 44) -- although the similarity seems rather faint to be heard as an echo. On the "incivility" of lovers, anyway, Smith and Austen would generally seem to agree, but possible influence by one writer on another can be found as readily in disagreement as agreement. Despite her apparent convergence with Smith on some points, would Austen have accepted Smith's views on love and resentment, namely, that neither can judge the other?
Not to leave anyone hanging on this point, here follows the answer in my conclusion:
Adam Smith may have thought that the opposed feelings of love and resentment did not judge one another, but Jane Austen -- whether or not she knew specifically of Smith's view -- appears to have held a radically different opinion. Ever since Juliet McMaster's 1978 book Jane Austen on Love, we have known that Austen conceives of proper lovers as each taking on roles as the teacher and the taught in a pedagogical economy concerning love, and of proper love as achieving the "integration of head and heart" (45) in a manner that does not lose passion because "the full and mutual engagement of head and heart is what is passionate" (46). But if love involves the heart as well as the head, then love plays a unique pedagogical role, for it also provides an impassioned epistemological framework for understanding the world and acting within it. In Austen's understanding, the heart's romantic love must be imbued with the head's charitable Christian love, which can judge pride and resentment as improper to love and thereby seek a better way. Douglas Bush, writing in 1975, spoke of Austen's "fusion of Christian virtues and principles and eighteenth-century reason, . . . sensitized and fired by controlled feeling" (196). Perhaps this remark gets at what Austen was up to, namely, responding to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment with a renewed Christian view of the human being. The best education by itself would not overcome one's natural evil, as Darcy himself remarks of his own "implacably" resentful temper, but a genuine love -- neither proud nor resentful, but charitable -- could empower one to do so, and in Darcy's case actually does so.
But if you want to know why I conclude these things, then you'll have to go read my online article. You'll want to, of course, since the editor, Susan Allen Ford, praises it so highly:
"C. Durning Carroll, Horace Jeffery Hodges, and Edward Kozaczka read individual novels through very different but strangely compatible perspectives."
Now that you've heard such highfalutin praise -- me and my article likened to C. Durning Carroll, of "Willoughby's Apology," and Edward Kozaczka, of "Queer Temporality, Spatiality, and Memory in Jane Austen's Persuasion" -- who could resist an urge to read more?

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At 8:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No thanks. You've probably gotten enough links from the 100 other identical comments that you've left like litter on various other blogs.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:15 AM, Blogger ejk said...

It took me a while to understand how our articles were "compatible," but I think it makes sense now. Kinda. I really enjoyed your reading!!

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Mr. Kozaczka, thanks for visiting my humble blog. I've not yet had a chance to read your paper due to grading, editing, and Christmas, but I hope to read it soon and discover the compatibility noted.

I'm glad that you enjoyed my own interpretation.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:54 AM, Blogger Arnie Perlstein said...


On 6/3/09, you wrote the following in another entry in your blog:

“Love's reproof has taught Darcy a lesson about pride . . . and apparently about overcoming resentment. But there is much to be excavated here, perhaps in 18th-century views on resentment and love, and I may have to do some more digging in texts on ethics, e.g., Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments.”

You have in fact several times quoted the passage in P&P where Darcy says he was “properly humbled” , including your above mentioned, excellent 2009 Persuasions Online article.

I suggest to you that in the back of your mind, you were subconsciously recalling the following passage from Smith’s Chapter 5 (including much discussion of resentment) in Theory of Moral Sentiments:

“Let it be considered, too, that RESENTMENT, though, in the degrees in which we too often see it, the most odious, perhaps, of all the passions, is not disapproved of when PROPERLY HUMBLED, and entirely brought down to the level of the sympathetic indignation of the spectator….”

I.e., Jane Austen DELIBERATELY created a literary Trojan Horse and planted it in your head several years ago, and you’ve been subconsciously recalling the above passage from Smith since then!

And I found this connection, because I think the most significant thread of the plot in the entire novel—how Eliza decides who is a good man, Wickham or Darcy, is itself a giant global allusion to that entire section of Smith’s treatise!

What do you think? ;)

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think I've forgotten so much of what I read and wrote on Jane Austen several years ago that I have nothing interesting to say.

Jeffery Hodges

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