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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

Fanny Price is one of the most boring heroines in literature.  She is always good, always correct, and it seems that her only faults lie in being too timid and being too easily fatigued.

Edmund Bertram is one of the least interesting heroes in literature.  He is sincere, intentional, and sober.  His primary shortcoming seems to be thinking the best of people and making the most of bad circumstances.

But isn’t real life and real goodness more like this duo?  Do they not refute our human tendency to buy into bright personalities, to follow confidence, to love foolishly?  Isn’t it hard to draw the line between dying to self and giving in to the pressures of those less wise?

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, does seem to be busy pressing these truths.  The most charming characters are the ones who oppose the good.  Mr. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary may not set out to be wicked, but they don’t try to be good.  They try to seem good.  They may even wish they were good.  What good could be done with them if good people took them under wing, befriended them, taught, influenced, married them?

How are good people to resist the allure of reforming their lovers?  How are good people to judge accurately?

While simultaneously facing these dilemmas and illustrating them, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram move through the excitement of new connections in the small neighborhood that has been their comfortable home.  Over and over again you see the heroine and hero making mistakes because of the things that influence their perspectives.  They doubt themselves.  They deceive themselves.  They reproach themselves.  They deny themselves.

And all through the plot, following paths merely tangential to each other, they’re getting a chance to discover the value of each other’s steady, reverential characters.  So when the events conspire to divide them from all the temptation of flattery, charm, and attraction, little wonder they proceed to fall in love with unsatisfactory brevity and with a felicity the envy of all their foolish relations.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This cinematic remake of Jane Austen’s Emma is delightful, from the music to the shadows.  It is less comic than the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, focused instead on watching characters develop.  I think that Emma is the most realistic of Jane Austen’s novels, the most relevant to an average person’s life.  Other renditions of the potrait of humanity in Emma do not leave this out.  However, Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller delve deeper.

Emma has never been challenged, never been exposed to new places or new ideas.  She honestly thinks she is always right.  And she wants to excel.  As the movie progresses, she discovers she is lonely.  Playing with one’s own creations ends up dissatisfying, however painful it is to relate to real, independent people.

Mr. Knightley has also been content with his life, set in a routine that keeps him happy enough.  Everything he’s known could change, though.  Disruption is not impossible.  And what if he is wasting his life?  On the other hand, should he want to change something, is it even possible?  He cannot control Emma, this he knows – Emma who is ever declaring that she shall never marry.  What will give Mr. Knightley the confidence – or desperation – to try to win the heroine’s heart?

Surrounding the main characters are all the other inhabitants of Highbury: Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, Jane Fairfax, Harriet Smith, and Frank Churchill.  Each is shown with their own struggles with identity, love, and managing their friends.  Staying in Highbury or leaving it has shaped their lives.  They all fear change, while simultaneously fearing that change may never come again.  Can good friends help them endure whatever life sends their way?

Watch as Emma goes from playing with dolls under the table, to arranging flowers, to arranging matches, back to arranging parties and managing a house – and her own heart.  See Mr. Knightley through the window, gradually approaching Emma’s loneliness.  Experience the light and seasons shift.  Feel the restrained emotion at the ball.  Dream of what might be.  And fall humbly into the beauty of what really is.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan – A well-written book about Christian living.  Dare to believe in a God who is not about rules, whose way is not comfortable or easy or popular.  Practice His presence.  Wait on Him and don’t give up, taking matters into your own hands.  It took me a while to read this book.  But every time I picked it up, it echoed the very lessons God was driving home in my lived-out life.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – All about grace.  And grace is always good.  I knew before I read it to be wary of some of Brennan Manning’s ideas, so that didn’t hang me up.  Even when I disagreed, I talked to my Jesus about it, and *that* made my week.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo – Was not a great story, not great writing, and not a great ending.  But I read it anyway, my first venture into Austen fan-fiction.  The title was the best part.  (To be Austen purist, I am pretty sure the author mis-identifies the inhabitants of Mansfield Park.  She should have said Bertram, but she said Rushworth.)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (see full review)

Castles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene – A novel about the subtle ways pagan spirituality and eastern mysticism are becoming accepted in evangelical Christian organizations.  Focuses on the teachings and life of Teresa of Avila.

Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard – The classic Jane Austen novel with lots of extra commentary as well as notes about history, economics, and fashion.  I liked it a lot!

Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul – Explanation of Calvinism especially versus Arminianism.  Focuses on the doctrine of predestination.

Tristan and Isolt, A Play in Verse by John Masefield – A short play telling a story of thoughtless love leading to tragedy.  What is real love?  How does Destiny figure in?

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Patillo – Another adventure in England with the Formidables, this time featuring a codependent heroine who has the chance to reinvent her life for a couple weeks without worrying what anyone needs her to be.  The exercise reveals her insecurity and causes her to confront her life choices.  Can a woman build a life on other people?

Green by Ted Dekker – Book 0 of the Circle Series, the beginning and end of the Thomas Hunter story.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, which Ted Dekker says is ok.  But it was confusing.  And I don’t think I like reading the end before the beginning.  I did like all the talk about hope.  And remembering that spiritual realities are real, even if they are unseen.

Miniatures and Morals: the Christian Novels of Jane Austen by Peter Leithart – A wonderful look at the beloved authoress’ use of satire, contrast, irony, and very good story-telling to communicate a morality originating in a deeply Christian worldview.


The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner (see full review)

Why Pro-Life?  Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers by Randy Alcorn A short summary of the major points of pro-life Christianity.  Pro-life is also pro-woman.  The “choice” is a moral one.  Preborn babies are people, too.  Pro-life ministries also help women after the babies are born.

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (see full review)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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At the bottom of my Blogger website, I have a quote that I consider to be both great insight and fair warning.  Jane Austen wrote,

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid;

it jumps from admiration to love,

from love to matrimony, in a moment.”

That is to say, when a woman sees signs of admiration in a man, she imagines he is in love with his object of admiration and begins to plan what to wear to the wedding.  This is true, though rather conceited, even of ourselves.  To feel admired by a man suggests marriage to us.  I don’t know why.  And to confess the truth, we hear a woman admiring a man and think she is destined for him.  Or we do imagine ourselves in love when we have experienced only the slightest flutter of respect or attraction.

Girls are like that.  Jane Austen knew it.  I have not found many girls who could refute it. In Fiddler on the Roof the eldest daughter sings, “There’s more to life than [happiness in marriage]… Don’t ask me what!”  We’re a little obsessed, even when we are striving to focus on other things.  We see the world in matches, even our forks and spoons are paired off into couples or families.

And even though this is just how things are, life is not made simple by these unfounded convictions.  The rapidness of our imaginations does not only make it awkward for men to be around us (and more so when we act on these emotions or ideas without checking them against what we ought to do); it makes determining the actual sources of our emotions and regard rather difficult.  With these expectations come frequent disappointments.  Some people even teach that we ladies ought to quiet our hearts, to “guard them”

from feeling and hope and imagination.

I’m not talking about lust, but a way of sorting out and reacting to life.  Most men and women will marry, and the origins often are something like admiration, then love, then commitment to marriage.

So we have this option, to prevent our rapid imaginations.  We can go into a nunnery until the knight in shining armor rides by to select his bride.  Or we can treat the world as though we consider ourselves nuns (often complete with vows of silence).  I have, in the past, tended to be unwilling to do the work it takes to relate to men without assuming things about them that are not significant, or that are even untrue.  Part of this was for my own sake, as I said: life is much simpler when you do not let yourself interact with or admire others.

Another part is that we presume men take similar imaginative leaps, and that they are not to be trusted with any them.  And good little girls who are trying to be modest, well, we do not realize that men are not quite as rapid as we, and we assume that sparking admiration will make a man desperately in love…  It goes something like this:

If I smile at him, he’ll think I like him.  And if he thinks I like him, he will fall in love with me.  When he falls in love with me, he’ll want to marry me.  But I don’t want to marry him!  I barely know him!

So the good little girls don’t smile.  Never mind that if I smile at his compliment, courtesy, or joke he might think I was pleased – and I was, but I don’t want him to know.  In the words of the “faultless” Mr. Darcy, “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.

I know it is risky, but wouldn’t it be better to be honest?  I dare say that a woman can trust a man with a smile or a laugh.  We need to stop trying to control the situation.  What I have practiced, before I learned this, was rejecting people, not rejecting suitors.  When someone is being themselves and meets with no response, or no attentive audience, his identity is being torn down.  My heart has been my idol, so that I guarded it and exalted it at the expense of people.

What about this?  If I don’t smile at him, he’ll think his joke wasn’t funny, and he’ll try something else or give up relating to us entirely.  For a woman frustrated with the reluctance of men to marry, it is rather contradictory to be discouraging them from even interacting with us.

It is now my goal to be the woman of kindness and quietness that God has called me to be, to do the extra work it takes to contain the eager imaginations and assumptions that are my tendency as a female.  I will trust God with the consequences of being myself – in modesty and discretion and humility – but also with being myself as a sister, an emissary of God sent to build up (even nurture) those around me.  If I do fall in love, I will trust God.  If a man falls in love with me, I will trust my good Lord Jesus.  These situations are not impossible even when they are unwelcome.  And I would rather suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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On January 24, January 31, and February 7, PBS’s Masterpiece Classic will be airing the new BBC Emma starring Romula Garai and Michael Gambon.  I’m looking forward to this one.  Emma is the independent and fickle heroine bent on matchmaking.  Watch with her as she learns what real love and charity are all about.  It should air at 9:00 PM on each night, but CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS!  The first episode is 2 hours, and episodes 2 and 3 are each 1 hour long.  In Denver, Masterpiece airs on KRMA Channel 6.  Beginning February 9, you can also purchase Emma from PBS at their shop for about $35 or on Amazon for about $25 (pre-order).
You might want to also tune in the following week, February 14, for the short and delightful Northanger Abbey.  Give an hour and a half to giggle and sigh over the silly but likeable Catherine Moreland and her hero, Henry Tilney.  See my full review here.
Also to update you on my Jane Austen movie preferences, I could not excuse myself for failing to point you to the good adaptation of Persuasion, BBC’s 1971 miniseries starring Ann Firbank.  It is old, but much closer to the book.  Live for the moment when Mr. Elliot’s notice of Anne reawakens Captain Wentworth’s attention, or that letter, the perfect letter, at the end of the story.
Update April, 2010 – see my review of Emma starring Romola Garai!
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I was watching a movie with my brothers last night, and the scene was one of those notorious “opportune moments.” The hero had a chance to confess his love – or tell the truth – or something useful, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. But he had planned ahead and brought with him a little gift, which he laid on the table between himself and the lady.

 

My brother summed their plight with the poetic description: He laid a gift on the moment’s grave.

 

Tonight I was reading the dictionary – not just to read it, but as one does when one is trying to get somewhere in those pages, and must journey through dangers and distractions like those of Odysseus. (I’m such a terrible speller of Greek; is that right? I am only newly acquainted even with the story of Odysseus, and most disappointed in his character.) My brother is reading The Federalist Papers, great essays on government and history and economics, which employed the word “temerity.” It happens to mean foolhardy or brash, but before I discovered this, I saw a picture.

 

To be honest, I almost always get caught by pictures, and carried away by root words. That is the way dictionaries have with me. This picture was of a little hog-like rodent, and the caption was like a Boggle-champion’s dream: tenrec. How simple. How very likely to occur in Boggle. How unheard of. Honestly. Have you ever heard of a tenrec?

 

No? Well, I suppose that is to be forgiven, since it, like so many interesting creatures, makes its home on Madagascar. The tenrec is a hedgehog-like mammal that eats insects (thus the nose looking like a pig’s, though it could have looked like an anteater and made itself more obvious). Our dictionary’s entry reported that this beast inhabits Madagascar and the adjacent islands.

 

Adjacent Islands!!! Who ever thought? Almost an oximoron! I mean, we’re not talking about islands connected at low tide but not at high. Maybe they were connected during the ice age. But then they weren’t islandS; they were AN island. So my meticulous brother commanded (he’s the one with leadership skills) that I look up “adjacent.” And it turns out that “adjacent” has as its first definition, “to lie near.” Still, I think that “Adjacent Islands” would be a great title for something. The image is so poetic.

 

Movies are almost always on in my house, maybe coming from so many of us enjoying long movies, or maybe because there are so many of us who think we need our own turn at choosing the program. Tonight there was yet another movie, and it was simply horrible, because the message of the movie was that when grown ups lie to children, the children owe it to them to sort of believe, because they want to believe, and miracles happen when you believe… The end of the movie had very little to do with this subject, as it consisted of the main little girl receiving three separate pairs of roller skates for Christmas. The last pair came from a blind man. And the little girl responded that she had a gift for him, her arms now full of metal and wheels. The most natural thing to expect her to give was a pair of roller skates. But then we pictured a blind man skating down the road… Don’t give such gifts to blind men!
 
Oh!  I signed up for all sorts of restaurant email updates, and have coupons and freebies rolling in!  Mostly they just want to give me something free with purchase, but I have plenty of choices!  There is something so pleasing about having a coupon in one’s purse.  Tonight I used a Kohl’s discount they sent in the mail, and saved a whole $1.50!  The best sign-up’s so far are Coldstone Creamery, Red Robins, and Lone Star Steakhouse.  Wendy’s gives a coupon for a dollar off.  But I’m still waiting to see what happens on my birthday.  I’ll let you know. 
 
The movie from last night (Wednesday) was Sense and Sensibility.  There are 4 versions I know anything about.  The earliest was made by BBC in the 70’s or 80’s, and according to my brother, who picked it up by mistake, is acted by robots who sit on teeter-totters sideways trying to converse with each other.  Next in importance/quality is a strange version made in India.  In fact, I believe the English is dubbed.  Not anywhere near as good as India’s Bride and Prejudice.  Now we come to the competitors.  In the 90’s, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.  She also starred as Elinor.  Alongside her were Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet, the latter reporting that she scarcely had to act; her personality was so much like Marianne Dashwood that Kate simply had to play the part.  That movie is beautiful.  Funny.  Sad.  Thoughtful.  With the exultantly happy ending highlighted by the perfect score.  I have my objections.  Hugh Grant – he’s not handsome, and his stuttering is annoying.  Colonel Brandon (I should know his name) isn’t very handsome, either, and Jane Austen movies aren’t known for their realism, so we should aim for attractive.  Finally, the version we were watching is the latest BBC adaptation, made in 2008.  It is about 3 hours long, with pretty scenery.  Other than that, the characters are poor imitators of the really good Sense and Sensibility.  Andrew Davies failed to convey emotion with his screenplay, and I don’t think most of the actors understood their characters.  The movie has its moments of interest.  Anyway, the actor who plays Colonel Brandon was recognized by all watching, but we couldn’t place him, so I looked him up.  IMDB is great!  I have been spending a lot of time there lately, for one reason or another.  The actor is David Morrissey, whom I recognized from The Water Horse.  Ah, the relief of answers! 
 
Have a good night.  Don’t waste your day. 
 
To God be all glory.

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Books Read in 2009!

Ahhh!  Is it 2009 already!  I guess it would have to be, but I’m really not prepared for 2009.  I liked 2008 – as a number – much better.  Funny, because I would prefer 9 the digit to 8.

Ok here is what I have read so far (and I’ve told you everything, but not all together):

10 Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland (This is a book that our high school girls small group went through this fall.  It was a really good defense of the Bible and the existence of God.  We got a basic course in apologetics through it.  The appendix for small groups in the back was a great help.  My one reservation is the weakness of his chapter on evolution – but only in the area of the age of the earth.  If I were a skeptic, I don’t think I would be flattened by all of the points in this book, but some of them are pretty convincing!)

Desiring God by John Piper (Read this book.  Don’t get turned off by the term “Christian hedonism.”  Christian is an important modifier.  God calls you to enjoy Him, for life in Him and through Him to be all about relationship.  Get some good teaching on some great verses to help you put it into practice!)

Coming to Grips with Genesis by Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury (see full review)

The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman (see full review)

Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (see full review)

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is In by Dr. Jason Lisle and Tim Chaffey (see full review)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (A quick read, unusual for this author, this book is a how-to on finding God’s will for your life, emphasizing faith in the sovereign plan of God.  Using the illustration of the father-son teams of weavers who make the wedding saris of India, Dr. Zacharias talks about the perfection of the Father’s plan even when we don’t see the design emerging yet.  One of his favorite topics is the Trinity: “unity and diversity in community”, and he uses it to communicate the love of God for us His children.  The second half of the book, comparable to other reformed works on the purpose of a Christian’s life, focuses on worship as a way of life.  In this book the Anglican roots of the author emerge more than in anything I have read or heard of his, as he revels in the imagery and tradition of the church as it pertains to worship.  The best part about this book to me was the quotes, which I can hear Ravi reciting in his crisp Indian-accented English.  I wish I could live in his library, because I have no doubt that this Christian apologist owns copies of the cherished volumes he quotes. )

Persuasion by Jane Austen (Yes, I read it again.  And it is still wonderful, far exceeding any movie renditions to date.  I want everyone to know this sweet story and to emulate the gentle, helpful, good, passionate Anne Elliot.  I also wish everyone to have her happily ever after!)

The Eighth Shepherd by Bodie and Brock Thoene (Centered on the story of Zacchaeus, this dramatization of the gospels teaches the importance of humility before the Shepherd-King who hears prayers and has come as doctor to the sick.  Enter Jericho.  Read of figs, taxes, sycophants, blind men, slaves, and the faith that could set any man or woman free.  Ask the question with Shimona whether it is better to be sick and know your need or to be healed by an excommunicant and feel alone.  Why does God save and heal?  What comes after that?  Perhaps God sends out the healed as instruments of more healing.  Shimona demonstrates courage, faith, gentleness, and a choice-love that doesn’t make sense but won’t be denied.  Can God use the love of His children to soften the hearts of the sick and the lost?  I loved the Ezekiel passage about shepherds placed between chapters.  What a warning to Christian leaders, and encouragement to those who are fed by the Great Shepherd.)

Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones (see full review)

Ninth Witness by Bodie and Brock Thoene (is another of their novels dramatizing the life of Christ, this time focusing on his twelth year Passover in Jerusalem.  I confess I didn’t like this one as much as most of this series.  The authors seem to be making Jesus and Simon Peter boyhood friends, and they felt it necessary to portray Mary and Joseph as adopting children rather than them being fathered by Joseph and mothered by Mary, the plainest interpretation of the New Testament account.)

The Chosen by Chaim Potok (see full review)

Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna (see full review)

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola (see full review)

The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Newton’s Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms by Sir Isaac Newton (see full review)

Shadow Over Kiriath by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Unveiled Hope by Scotty Smith and Michael Card (see full review)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Despite contamination with inappropriate and disturbing material, this is a parody of the classic novel beloved by refined women everywhere.  I get the impression that Seth believes he can improve Jane Austen’s work.  Often retaining the original language, he adds his interpretation of the story – things you know he was always longing to say he guessed about the characters’ true intentions or activities – and the ridiculous addition of zombies.  Most versions of Pride and Prejudice retain the same characters and plot, but this is a rather amusing twist that ends up changing the characters significantly.  To describe this book I have told everyone that the famous scene where Mr. Darcy first proposes involves the exact dialogue of the original, but Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are literally dueling.  Go figure.)

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard (see full review)

Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews by David Pryce-Jones (A summary of centuries of French policy and prejudice, including some world history especially in the 20th century.  David Pryce-Jones researched the archives at the Quai d’Orsay for internal memos and official reports detailing the Foreign Ministry’s policies towards Jews and the Arab world, proving that all France has ever intended was to be more prominent and powerful than the Jews or the ‘Jewish-dominated’ United States.)

Flood Legends by Charles Martin (see full review)
Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker (see full review)

The cry in Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, is not a yell from rooftops. This is a crying book, with tissue and red eyes and the ache in your throat when you try to hold back the tragedy from taking over you. There are no answers in this book, only the brave resolve to do what is right and to speak the truth, knowing that some things belong to God, and He alone can rescue mankind. South Africa, like all of our nations, has for decades and centuries been in the brokenness that needs God. Still men are praying, and crying for their beloved country.

JRR Tolkien: Myth, Morality & Religion by Richard Purtill (see full review)

Get Married by Candice Watters (Some encouraging stuff and some challenging ideas and some points of view that weren’t helpful. I believe God wanted me to read the book, so I did.)

Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Seuss; Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss; I had Trouble Getting to Solla-Sollew by Dr. Seuss; The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss (who knew Dr. Seuss didn’t just write silly nonsense! Some of his books are actually allegories and parables. I much prefer them if they rhyme, but am rather unhappy when the rhyme is only accomplished by inventing a word.)

The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle (see full review)

Return of the Guardian-King (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 4)
by Karen Hancock
(see full review)

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (The classic children’s story about growing up. Not quite like the movies. Great writing, quirky quotes. I cannot figure out whether JM Barrie was trying to say something with his story, or a lot of things as they popped into his head. He seems to be fond of manners and humility.)

God and the Nations by Dr. Henry Morris (see full review)

Perelandra by CS Lewis (is the richly poetic tale of Ransom’s trip to the planet Venus, where he encounters the first created woman of the land, the Eve.  Ransom discovers the purpose for his visit when his old enemy, Weston, splashes into the Perelandrian ocean, bent to tempt the woman to prove she is “grown up” by moving out of the will of God.  While this question is strongly presented, there are other parts of the story more moving.  The opening description of the fluid islands and sensuous sights and smells, the intriguing but unfathomable moodiness of a world that is femininity incarnate – this is a strength of the story: the environment is a character.  As a character, it can be accepted or rejected or even abused.  Will one take the next wave as it comes?  Does a man try to maintain his plane when the island swells first into a hill and then dips into a valley?  If a fruit is good, must one drink of it again even when full?)

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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The other night I watched a movie with a friend. It was a thinking movie, the kind I love. Do people ever tell you a movie is “about” the plot? I mean, a movie or book is rarely about what happens. The events and characters are about something else. Jane Austen was kind enough to tell us in her titles what her books were about. Some people don’t realize the subject of their art until they themselves step back to view the metaphor against the big picture.
This movie, it quoted Shakespeare. And even though I’m familiar with about two Shakespeare plays (a comedy – translate: happy ending and a tragedy – translate: everyone dies, but only in the end) and a sonnet, I’ve figured out that Shakespeare wrote about things. I don’t always know what. And so to quote a line from Shakespeare is to imply the subject of his play.
Because my examples are limited, I’m going to use the one I can think of. In Hamlet, the title character arranges for a pointed stage drama designed to convict his mother of her sins. (He ruins the effect by talking straight through the play; Shakespeare should have better appreciated the power of art when left to speak for itself.) In this drama within a play is a woman who worries aloud about whether she is making the right decision. She hesitates to give into temptation. At the end of the play, Hamlet asks his mother for her review of the performance. “Methinks she doth protest too much,” says the mother. And so we have a commonly quoted phrase of Shakespeare.
When someone quotes that line, they are often and most correctly implying the context, too. They’re even bringing with them the end of the tale, with its vilifications and justifications. Being familiar with the anthologies referenced in works of art can go a long way towards comprehension. Another advandage to interpretation is to have already made a thought venture or two into the subject. The Matrix, I believe, is about fate. How powerful is the human will? Whether I agree with The Matrix’s statements on this subject or not, I can more readily grasp those statements because I’ve spent a lot of time investigating free will and the sovereignty of God.
These references to shared philosophical questions, literary experiences, etc. make up a story-mosaic within the larger story. And it can be done in a movie, in a poem, in witticism, in art, and even in everyday conversation. A frequent form of Context Matrix is the inside joke phenomenon.
 

Image from DiyHappy

 

My brother writes poetry. Sometimes he just writes whatever is in his head that jumbles into verse form. Some evolutionists wrongly suggest that organisms acquire additional DNA information (to change them into new species) by sort of colliding with other organisms with different DNA (we have the eye factory organism over here, going through generations of natural selection to finally reach vision, and he’ll share someday with the organism working out wings and flight). This is not a sufficient mechanism for biology, but it seems to happen in the thought realm of my brother’s mind. But he isn’t in control of his mental context matrix, of all the things he encounters in his life to fuel his thoughts and shape his experiences. I believe there is a designer at work on each of our lives, and sometimes before we are even aware, He is writing patterns into the mosaic of experiences. Those patterns come out like (good) toxocology reports on my brother’s thoughts.

Let me tell you, though, that unless you know my brother on a day-to-day basis, interpreting his poetry is impossible. He doesn’t care. For whatever it’s worth to you, whatever the words mean to you, take them or leave them. I suppose a lot of art is like that, subjected to the needs and interests of the connoisseur.

I’m really bad at getting metaphors. There is probably a common representative language among poets into which I, for lack of study, have not been initiated. When I do catch on to a metaphor, I’m really excited.

One breakthrough recently is the willingness to admit my ignorance and ask for help in understanding things. (For years I’ve been trying to help my “blonde” – literal or figurative – friends appear smarter by teaching them to wait a while and see if they catch on before they admit themselves to teasing by that inimitable expression, “Huh?” Now they’re teaching me to learn by being willing to ask.) Having a brother like mine helps. Sometimes, you just have to ask the source. Such was my plan of action for a blog I read.

A friend told me that his friend was disappointed in the lack of response to his blog. I’ve been blogging for two and a half years, and let me tell you, the blog world is big; finding an audience is hard. Out of compassionate curiosity, I found the blog and read it. It didn’t make any sense. I mean the words made sense, but they were the plot, not the subject. Months later I checked it again. This time I was convinced that the blog was more than the product of bored hours of creatively mimicing archaic literature. The author was getting at something flying over my head at light speed. So I asked.

And today the author answered. By now I forgot most of what I read, so I have to re-read the post, too. Here it is: The Perilous Journeys of St. Upid I dare you to leave comments (on my blog as well as his) with what you think it’s about.

My point here is that my friend understood his friend’s blog because he knew the context matrix his friend was using. They’ve talked in unambiguous language about these topics. They’ve also both seen Monty Python, which may have helped me if I’d seen more of his stuff. That’s your only hint.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn 

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I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well — and indeed, so I do still at my heart…” – Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
 
Women have always had a thing for men in uniform, whether it was the shining armor that bespoke defense against dragons and pagan armies, or the clean, gloved dress blues of the United States Navy today. 
 
On the radio this week I heard an interview by Dennis Prager of Allison Armstrong.  This woman has a book and website about “understanding men,” and being a woman, she is obviously comparing them to females so that women, knowing themselves, may appreciate the men in their lives.  One thing she said about women is that what they need from a man is security.  While few professions are more dangerous and truly insecure than defense, I argue that a woman feels more secure when she is with a man in uniform. 
 
So it might seem strange that nearly every girl dreams of being a princess.  She wants to be beautiful and important, and to have that prince at her side who will dance her into the sweet sunset.  Nevertheless, a man is created to lead.  Prince, being part of the hierarchy in a system of monarchy, is the romantic personification of authority.  He has a kingdom at his fingertips.  His people look up to and respect him.  What woman would not want to be at the side of such a man?  For women crave that figure in their lives that gives them direction. 
 
In the old chivalric code, a knight seldom wed with the lady to whom he dedicated his conquests.  The woman might be of a social position out of reach, or she may demonstrate the good sense that so few women are able to carry out: not joining her life with that of a man whose every day is violent risk of life.  In other places I have addressed this romantic moral. 
 
So here is my principle of Knights and Princes.  When a girl or woman is rescued by a gallant man, be it from certain death, the humiliation of carrying something too heavy for her, or the common courtesy of having doors opened on her behalf, if that man is a stranger, or a brother, or a mere friend, he is a Knight, honored by all, a man who stands ready to serve and defend wherever the need is presented.  (Though less relevant to my thesis, I will here add that her father, should he so deliver the maiden, is doing is high and worthy job as Guardian, Defender of the Realm.)  And if he is husband or fiancé performing the deed, I name him Prince.  A true lady would never call a mere knight her prince, or think of him as such, lest she be claiming another princess’ Prince. 
 
Knights have arisen in my life this week, blessing me and coming to my aid: a neighbor of a friend relieving me from shoveling snow in 20-degree weather, a friend carrying a sign too heavy for me, a boy from church holding a door, and my brother working in my place voluntarily on this my birthday.  I hereby dub them Knights. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read.  Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters).  For my part I wish that the story had been developed more.  I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy.  Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid.  One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to. 
 
The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.”  She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter.  Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished.  They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death.  The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought.  We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed. 
 
Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed.  Read Lady Susan.  It’s a light, funny story with a background romance.  Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them.  And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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