Sunday, 24 July 2016

Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits - Guest Post and Giveaway

Book Cover: Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits by Maria-Emilia de Medeiros
I have the great pleasure of welcoming Maria-Emilia de Medeiros today. She has written a book about what Jane Austen may have thought about modern life, 'Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits'. Read on to see what Maria-Emilia thinks that Jane Austen may have thought about feminism. There is also a giveaway associated with this guest post, as the author is kindly giving away an e-book of the book for a commenter on this post.

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Many thanks for inviting me to your blog today, Ceri!  I am most humbled and honored to share about my recently released book, Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits, with your readers today.
 
This book is my own lighthearted attempt to allow Miss Austen to voice what might have been her “own” opinions on modern day matters, based on a knowledge of her life, work, society, and the prevailing social mores inherent in Western culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with which she was raised.

Though the book’s tone is frequently lighthearted, there is often a more serious undertone to the juxtaposition of viewpoints which Miss Austen offers to readers through the contrast between her world and that of the modern day.  This profound contrast highlights both positive and negative changes in our society and culture over the past two centuries, especially in the roles we play—and especially for the female half of the population.

One of the several underlying themes in Jane Austen Speaks has to do with womanhood and how vastly society’s view of women and attitudes regarding their role in society have changed.  As a fairly educated person, I have known this intellectually for a long, long time.  However, it was not until I began to write from the perspective of Jane Austen--knowing full well the type of familial, social, and cultural milieu from which she came--that I became fully appreciative of what a profound and dramatic transformation has occurred in women’s lives in the past two hundred or so years.  It was truly an eye-opening experience for this writer.

Jane Austen Quote

Inevitably, people will ask me the question, “Do you think Jane Austen was a feminist?”  Naturally, such a construct did not exist until roughly one hundred and fifty years after the great lady novelist from Hampshire’s passing.  Personally, I do not believe it is important to judge the degrees to which a female novelist of a bygone era adhered to what may be considered feminist ideology.  All labels aside, I do think I can say with a fair amount of confidence that as an unmarried woman for the entire length of her adult life, Jane Austen would have been at the very least an ardent advocate for her sex.

While Jane might have admired the views of Mary Wollstonecraft, in other words, it is highly dubious that she herself would have adhered to such radical notions.  It is certainly true that Miss Austen led a rather conventional life, following quite closely society’s rules for unmarried women of her time period.  She did, however, create several strong-spirited female characters, who were well able to make their own decisions and stay true to themselves while remaining within the confines of accepted patriarchal society.  Furthermore, the very fact that Jane Austen accomplished the publication of several novels during her lifetime is proof positive that she was not purely a conventional eighteenth and early nineteenth century woman.

Of course, there are those who will point to what they call the many “anti-feminist messages” in Austen’s work, especially the husband-hunting that ends in marriage for the most deserving heroines.

Yet if it is possible to strip away feminist doctrine to define feminism as maintaining a complementary balance between the sexes (if not equality), I believe it is definitely possible to view Miss Austen’s work in a much different light.  Jane Austen lived during an era in which most did not believe that any woman could hold a rational thought in her head, let alone manage her own life without male direction.  Her novels repeatedly show that any woman who blindly follows social dictates over her own intelligence and internal wisdom, or one who is irrationally emotional, will not fare well.  Jane Austen herself was quite well-read for a woman of her day, and her own writing comments on the need for women to be well-educated.  In her time, marriage was the only viable option for a woman who was not financially independent.  Miss Austen’s work clearly shows that she advocates women to make life choices based on a foundation of love--not merely money and status--therefore asserting both their ability to make rational choices for their own lives as well as their God-given right to pursue their own happiness.  These were indeed progressive ideas for Jane’s time, whether one might call them “feminist” or not.

Bank of England Note Featuring Jane Austen

Would Jane Austen have appreciated the fact that a female novelist could appear on the face of her nation’s currency, or that a woman could be prime minister or president, or that women could vote alongside men?  Quite probably.  But would she have been scandalized by modern fashions, women sporting tattoos and piercings, and modern relationships?  Again, I would say, quite probably!  With her abundant wisdom, I am sure that Jane Austen would be among the first to express the opinion that change can be marvelous thing, but it is not always for the better.
I happen to think that Jane Austen would have also appreciated many of the new freedoms that the changes in social dictates brought to women’s lives (and which most of us in the twenty-first century completely take for granted).  Here is an excerpt from “Wearing Trousers: A Happy Thought, Indeed!” for your reading pleasure:

…I must confess that there is one item of modern female apparel which I find truly magnificent:  trousers!  Dear Readers, you must try to imagine how difficult it was to do much of anything with one’s body when encumbered by floor length skirts and petticoats (not even to mention laced stays).  Ladies could not ride a horse astride as only would have been sensible.  It was not even possible to walk out of doors for any length of time without muddying one’s hem considerably.  Since we owned but few gowns, and there was no such thing as a “washer/dryer,” you can imagine the difficulties this would present for a lady, who would never presume to traipse about with mud on her hem, unless it absolutely could not be helped. 
Do you twenty-first century females have any notion of the debt of gratitude you owe to Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, the leading advocate of trousers for women?  She adopted the mode of dress in 1851 and encouraged other ladies to do the same.  One should not forget the public ridicule she bore with grace and dignity, not to mention the scurrilous insults of men who derided trousers for women as not only brazen, but indecent.
Indeed, it is my dearest hope that twenty-first century ladies are not ignorant of the brave women who paved the way for the Freedom they enjoy and perhaps take for granted.  In addition to Mrs. Bloomer, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mrs. Hannah Tracy Cutler, Miss Susan B. Anthony, and Miss Lucy Stone were amongst the many courageous females who dared to flout the restrictive, uncomfortable, and dare I say, unhealthy fashions originating from Paris. 
Although most men interpreted this action as a mere political statement about women’s suffrage, in truth, these ladies promoted wearing “bloomers” for health reasons.  You must only try to imagine, Gentle Readers, how difficult it was to breathe deeply or undertake any real form of physical exercise while one was laced tightly into stays.  Add voluminous petticoats and floor length skirts to a woman’s daily costume, and perhaps you can grasp my meaning.  Now, please allow me to clarify that I am referring to modest trousers for ladies—none of these skin-tight garments worn by females in the twenty-first century.  (In truth, I blush to write this, but it is an unalterable fact of human anatomy that the female body was not constructed to make the wearing of such very tight trousers either comfortable or healthy.) 
Upon my word, I believe that the male of the species felt that women were trying to usurp their age-old authority by wearing this physically freeing mode of dress.  Tut-tut, how pitiful that they believed Freedom to be the exclusive right of the male sex for such a very long time!
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Book Cover: Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits by Maria-Emilia de Medeiros
Once again, I would like to thank the lovely Ceri for so graciously inviting me today so that I might talk about Jane Austen Speaks About Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits.  It has been delightful to be your guest today.

I do hope you will enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Please enter your comments below for a chance to win an eBook copy of Jane Austen Speaks.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Links:
Amazon USAmazon UK

Author Bio:
Maria Emilia de Medeiros is a teacher, writer, artist, and lifelong Janeite. She read her first Jane Austen novel at the tender age of twelve and has never looked back. In addition to reading, playing the pianoforte, and embroidery, she is fond of dogs, long country walks, and drawing. Jane Austen Speaks is her first published book about Jane Austen.

Contact Information:

Book Blurb:
In JANE AUSTEN SPEAKS, author Maria Emilia de Medeiros “channels” the great Jane Austen from her heavenly home and allows her the opportunity to speak her mind about the modern world nearly two centuries after her passing. Readers will gain a healthy dose of wise counsel and witty advice for leading a sensible, well-mannered twenty-first century life. Jane Austen’s heavenly exploits (not to mention her recipes) will both entertain and delight you. At times serious, drily humorous, or even a bit naughty, JANE AUSTEN SPEAKS is a necessary addition to every Janeite’s library. Dear Readers, if you have ever asked yourself, “What would Jane Austen think?” you have indeed come to the right place.

Giveaway Time!

Maria Emilia de Medeiros is kindly offering to give away an e-book copy of Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits to a reader here! To enter, just leave a comment on this post, including a way for me to contact you, by the end of the day of Sunday 31 July 2016. This giveaway is open to international entrants.

There are other stops on the blog tour, with additional chances to win. The dates are below. Please note that each giveaway will have a different closing date, check individual posts for details.

Blog Tour Schedule

My Jane Austen Book Club:  July 6
Laughing with Lizzie:  July 8
Obsessed with Mr. Darcy:  July 12
So Little Time...:  July 14
More Agreeably Engaged:  July 19
My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice:  July 21
Babblings of a Bookworm:  July 25
Darcyholic Diversions:  July 28


25 comments:

  1. Goodness gracious me!!! To think that when Austen wrote her beloved P&P,men believed women incapable of rational thought and thus unable to manage our own affairs!!! Yet under such circumstances she created Lizzy!!! Amazing,really when you think about it,that she had the courage of her convictions and pursued her dream of being a novelist.
    Must say I'd love to read this book,to see the progress we have made,to compare the then and now,all through the eyes of Jane. A very interesting and intriguing book,I'd say.

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    1. Thank you very much for your wonderful comments, Mary! I truly appreciate them, and I do hope you will enjoy the book. Best of luck in the giveaway!

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    2. I think in a lot of ways Austen was quite modern in her outlook, and that's part of the reason that we can love her work now. I remember the first time I read P&P as a teenager, and I felt such a kinship with Lizzy, she was just like me, even though she was 200 years older. If she'd been more traditional in her outlook I'm sure I wouldn't have felt that. Thanks for commenting, Mary!

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    3. What a fascinating observation, Ceri! When I was younger, I did not really identify with any of Austen's heroines that much. It was Jane Eyre who really struck a chord within me. As I get older (and wiser, I hope), I find that I relate to each one of Austen's heroines in particular ways. To me, that is a sign of a truly great author...one who can create characters who are so multi-dimensional that one can experience them in different ways each time one reads the books.

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    4. Yes, there is something new to admire every time you read Austen. I very much admire your heroine of choice. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time and the reason for that is most definitely JE herself. My favourite part of the whole book is when she says that no matter how friendless she is, she cares for herself, i.e. self respect is absolutely paramount for her, and that really struck a chord for me.

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  2. I love the sound of this book. It makes for interesting reading I think. It's an ingenious idea. Fingers crossed. I'd love to win it.

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment, Bookworm! So happy that the book sounds intriguing to you, and I do hope you will enjoy it. Best wishes and best of luck!

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    2. Thanks for commenting, fellow Bookworm. Good luck in the giveaway :)

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  3. Yay for trousers!! What fun it sounds, Jane's view of modern life :)

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    1. Thanks, Jo's Daughter! I completely agree on both counts--yay for trousers, and having a bit of fun with Jane Austen! ;) Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting.

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    2. Hurrah for trousers! Thanks for stopping by, Jo's daughter :)

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    3. Envisioning what Jane Austen would have thought of modern fashion was one of the most highly diverting aspects of writing the book for me, as a matter of fact! It really makes me break out into laughter when I consider what she would have thought of the thong bikini.

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    4. I am not sure what I think of thong bikinis myself, Maria-Emilia. Imagine what she would have thought of a mankini! She probably would have needed a lie down to recover from the shock!

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  4. I enjoyed this intelligent guest post very much, as well as the excerpt! I think I would love to read this book. Please enter me in the giveaway. chawtoncottage8atgmaildotcom

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    1. Will do, Pearl! I am glad you enjoyed the guest post and excerpt. I was struck when I first read it, that it mirrors my view of Jane Austen's views exactly, so I have high hopes for enjoying this book.

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    2. I am enormously flattered by your comments, Ceri. I truly hope you will enjoy the book. Thank you once again for hosting me on Babblings of a Bookworm!

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    3. It was a pleasure to welcome you here, Maria-Emilia :)

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  5. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Pearl! So glad you enjoyed the post and the excerpt! Best of luck in the giveaway!

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  6. I shutter to think what Jane would think of some modern things and how she would love others. Wonderful post. Thank you for the giveaway. Cherringtonmb at sbcglobal dot net

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree, BeckyC! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you will enjoy reading JANE AUSTEN SPEAKS.

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    2. Definitely, Becky, I think that some things would be wondrous, and other things would probably appall her. I think JA was like her creations Mr Bennet and Elizabeth in finding amusement in others though, so I think there would be a lot for her to enjoy.

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    3. Precisely, Ceri. I have often thought that a significant aspect of Jane Austen which most fail to grasp is her razor sharp wit. She had a gift for ironic understatement that is pure genius, in my humble opinion. I feel a definite kinship with Jane Austen in the sense that while I appreciate romance, I adore humour. I love to laugh, and it often puzzles me quite a lot why others do not. Laughter makes the difficulties in life so much more bearable. Attempting to bring that side of Miss Austen out was one of the many aims I had in mind for writing this book, as a matter of fact.

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    4. I agree with you entirely, Maria-Emilia, life would be pretty miserable if you couldn't laugh about things. Austen's humour, without crossing the line into silliness, is probably the thing that puts her into her position as my favourite author.

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