Miss Woodhouse's Musings

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Eight More Weeks

It has recently been brought to my attention that my blogging of late is…spotty, at best. Naturally, this is due to an amazingly complex life workload right now, and (if we’re being honest) a general lack of inspiration. But no more! Today marks my last first-day-of-a-session, and I intend to milk these last eight weeks of university for all they are worth.

This morning, I started Hebrew. After a long struggle with Greek, Hebrew seems even more incomprehensible (if that’s even possible). However, I’ve always wanted to learn Hebrew, so I’m attacking it like it’s a language out of a fantasy book. So what if it bears no relationship to English??? A dalet totally reminds me of the word Dalek…this is doable. Oh! Here’s a picture of what I did in class this morning!

I’m continuing with Oral Communication, the only class that is staying the same over the whole semester. It’s a great class though, almost a brain break of sorts. Really, the class should be called The Art of Storytelling, because that is what we do. We read about orality and the ideas of oral culture (slightly ironic, I know), and then we tell stories! Next week we have to tell either a Teaching or a Vision story. I’ve not yet decided which I’ll go with, but so far all of my stories started out as blog posts here. Look at you all, helping me get an A in this class! We are reading this really great book by Walter Ong titled Orality and Literacy that is awesome! If you’re a word/language-geek looking for an interesting read, I encourage you to pick it up! This guy is scary smart.

Last, but not least, I’m doing Mystery Fiction! Due to being one of the first English majors on campus (and helping start the English Club as well), I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the English Suite talking with our awesome English professors. (By the way, that sentence just won an award for overusing the word “English.”) During one of those chats, I was asking our department head about the likelihood of creating certain courses. One of the things I asked about was a mystery class. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I thought that it might be fun. While I was told that there were no plans to create such a course for the university, the department head mentioned that she had taught such a class at another college in the past.

Fast forward to last May when I realized that my current degree plan left room for one more elective course. Problem was, I’d taken any and every class that I was even slightly interested in. So, I casually asked the department head if she would be willing to do an independent study with me. She was! So there you have it…the brief and tedious history of my university’s first Mystery Fiction class.

I had the honour of drawing up my reading list, and it’s a pretty awesome one:

Week One – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Week Two – Murder in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Week Three – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Week Four – The Maltese Falcon  by Dashiell Hammett

Week Five – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Week Six – Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Week Seven – Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James

Week Eight – The Service of All the Dead by Colin Dexter

A bit heavy on the British side of things, but we both prefer British literature anyway, so it works out. I also have two supplementary books for the class: The Perfect Murder, and Bloody Murder. I’m sure after ordering those two books that I’m now on some Amazon watch list. Also, please ignore the fact that I’m ordering from Amazon. Desperate times and all that jazz.

Add to that teaching British Literature twice a week, American Literature twice a week, a few music students, and 20+ hours at Starbucks, and I’m really in for an exciting two months. Oh well…l’chaim!

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Sanditon

This year I received an advance copy of Hesperus’ printing of Jane Austen’s last novel, Sanditon. The agreement is that I write a review in return for the book, so I thought that I’d also post my review on here. I really did enjoy the story- you all should read it if you have a chance!

Sanditon is the last of Jane Austen novels, written right at the end of her life. As such, it is incomplete and unfinished. This is the reason that I had never read Sanditon before now- this is the end of Austen’s writings. This just brings home the fact that she will not be writing anything new for me to read.

The novel shows amazing promise, and cannot help but leave the reader regretting that the story was never finished. The tone of the novel reads as a conglomeration of her previous novels. The hypochondriacal storyline hints at Persuasion, the varied house party brings Mansfield Park to mind, the quirky characters are similar to Emma, the cutting social critique is similar to Northanger Abbey’s, and so the novel reads. Though some of the material feels recycled from her other writings, Austen still manages to bring her fresh, breezy style of writing to the storyline.

Some of the elements are new to an Austen novel. The story delves into the male psyche more than any other book of hers. Too, Austen’s approach to “health cures” usually restricts itself to commentary on Bath, so the exploration of Bath-wannabes of the time is interesting to see. Lastly, it is one thing to stand back in the 21st century and critique women for letting their overactive imaginations lead them to imagine illness. It adds another dimension to read a woman of the time critique her own gender, especially since Austen was genuinely ill herself at the time.

The reader will be in no doubt that the story was intended to end happily as all Austen’s novels do- the secret lovers find happiness, inheritances help out those who need money, Sanditon will succeed as a health resort, and the heroine finds someone to give her the perfect life. The good will end well, and the bad will end in disgrace. However, the reader cannot help but regret the loss of those little plot twists and charming character development that only Austen can create on her way to happily ever after.

As to this particular printing, Hesperus printed the edition very nicely. Though it is a paperback, the cover has deep flaps that serve as the perfect bookmarks, and the typeface is the perfect blend between readability and old-fashioned style. Overall, this edition is a nice tribute to the final product of Austen’s unique imagination.

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