Why is Jane Austen so phenomenally popular? Why do we read Pride and Prejudice again and again? Why do we delight in Emma’s mischievous schemes? Why do we care that Anne Elliot of Persuasion suffers?
We care because it is our biological destiny to be interested in people and their stories—the human brain is a social brain. And Austen’s characters are so believable, that for many of us, they are not just imaginary beings, but friends whom we know and love. And thanks to Austen’s ability to capture the breadth and depth of human psychology so thoroughly, we feel that she empathizes with us, her readers.
Humans have a profound need for empathy, to know that we are not alone with our joys and sorrows. And then there is attachment, denial, narcissism, and of course, love, to name a few. We see ourselves and others reflected in Austen’s work.
Brilliantly original and insightful, this fusion of psychology, neuroscience, and literature provides a heightened understanding of one of our most beloved cultural institutions—and our own minds.
FEATURED ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW:
“A fascinating mash-up of literary analysis and neuroscience. Highly recommended for Austenites and pop-psychology fans, as both will find plenty of original, acute concepts to pore over.”
“Recommended for Janeites and general readers interested in social intelligence―one needn’t be a huge Austen fan to enjoy this odd combo. Particularly recommended for those who would delight in using the DSM-5 to diagnose Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot with a narcissistic personality disorder.”
– Library Journal
“Being a Jane Austen fanatic isn’t required for appreciating this fascinating book; Jones, a psychotherapist and former English professor, will win over the initially unconverted by the book’s end. Readers will find this book well worth the generous investment of time required and finish it better informed about both the science behind human behavior and the artistry behind Austen’s work.”
– Publishers Weekly
Wendy Jones is a practicing psychotherapist and former English Professor known for her work on the connection of between literature and the mind-brain sciences. She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Cornell University and subsequently was a Senior Lecturer and Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. She has been a Visiting Professor at Williams College, University of Rochester, and Syracuse University. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
ATJA review on Amazon:
I would like to say Wendy’s writing style in this book follows a very new trend in the publishing industry. She has superior academic knowledge but chooses to write not only for other academics but to the fans of Jane Austen as well. She takes her knowledge to a broader audience, one that is thirsty with more knowledge of Jane Austen and her characters but cannot understand the stiffness of the academic writing. With a voice that is clearly full of admiration as a fan, she delves into the reason why Jane Austen is a unique writer with the power to cross all kinds of barriers even 200 hundred years after her death reaching the status of pop star and breaking records after records. She shows us Jane’s emotional and social intelligence, way beyond her years and time. You will feel smarter after reading it but you will have fun as well. She makes it fun and analyzes juice bits we all wondered about or missed entirely. Do you have to be a fan of analysis and therapy? Probably, but I bet you love to talk about Jane’s characters as real people – at least most of her fans do. So imagine taking them to a therapy session and discussing their behavior? This is what I felt reading her book. I hope you do too.
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Rita L. Watts