William Deresiewicz is here to tell you that Jane Austen's biting social commentaries can improve your life while entertaining you.
Deresiewicz is a former Yale University English professor turned professional literary critic. His book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, shows how Austen's novels were therapeutic at different stages in his development.
In graduate school Emma taught the arrogant 26-year-old Deresiewicz that it's the small everyday occurrences of our lives that mold us into the people we become. Pride and Prejudice reminded him of how important it is to temper feelings with reason, and to be wise enough to learn from our mistakes. Mansfield Park turned a spotlight on the elite Manhattan crowd he was socializing with at the time, revealing how a lack of curiosity about the hows and whys of others' lives make for a narrow mindset that doesn't serve one well in life. The theme of friendship in Persuasion is perfect for a lesson about how to tackle the complexities of forging lasting adult friendships in this fast-paced society.
Take home A Jane Austen Education to discover what life lessons Deresiewicz squeezed out of Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. His scholarly and personal takes on these six books should give even the die-hard Austen fans a fresh way of looking at her work.