American Morning

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December 16th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Jane Austen: 'What, me sexy?'

By Ronni Berke and Carol Costello

Move over, Angelina - make room for Jane. Jane Austen.

This beloved author of the ultimate "chick" novel turns 235 years old this week, yet she still sets hearts aflutter.

Austen's novels, where the art of conversation between the sexes reigns supreme, remain popular even among today's technology-obsessed, multi-tasking young women. On Facebook, Austen has 246,952 fans, who call themselves "Janeites." The Jane Austen Society of America has 65 regional groups and counts 4,000 members.

What is it about her books that resonates with today's women? In part, the Austen obsession is a rejection of what passes for modern romance, in such movies like the upcoming "Friends with Benefits," about friendship, sex, and then taking whatever comes.

In Austen's world, nothing is sexier than the intellectual sparring between a man and a woman.


"There needs to be more communication between partners. And I think that's something Jane Austen talks a lot about and something that isn't talked about all now - it's the idea that women are completely different from men," says Jaclyn Green-Stock, 23, a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America in New York.

That sentiment appeals not only to some young feminists, but to more traditional women too - although for different reasons.

Karin Agness, 26, who writes a conservative blog called Enlightenedwomen.org, says women "should embrace our femininity as women and men should embrace their masculine side and recognize the value of that and don't try to fight against it or be something that you're not."

To 25-year-old Janeite Allison Bruce, Austen's brilliance takes that concept even further. "The great thing about Jane Austen is that the relationships aren't old fashioned so much as they are real," says Bruce. "There is nothing contrived, there is nothing that rings false."

But aren't there other examples than Jane Austen to look up to? "It's so difficult to find that," says Green-Stock. "Especially with today's movies and today's books and the idea that we need to constantly be getting the new thing. Sometimes we have to go back and look at what happened in the past."


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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Adina

    I gave Karin Agness an applause when she said that women should embrace their feminine sign and men should embrace their machline side.

    BOTH men and women should recognize their values and NOT be something that their not!

    I've been saying the same thing WAY before this story was ever brought to CNN AM: This Morning.

    The one thing that men and women DO have that's not indefferent is sordid behavoir and choosing to be dumb.

    Good on you Ms. Agness!

    December 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  2. Arnie Perlstein

    The following is a link to my birthday tribute to Jane Austen:

    http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/12/jane-austens-last-birthday.html

    Jane Austen's increasing fame is due, most of all, to her having been, alongside Shakespeare, one of the great psychologists of all time–but, unlike Freud, she chose to embed her genius-level understanding of human nature in fictional stories, rather than in nonfiction. Shakespeare did the same, and that is why Austen and Shakespeare stand together at the apex of English literature.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  3. mike po.

    its mostly a trend or and era, rome orgies, roaring 20,s disco and hippie eras were all different , men and women go with the trend or styles of that era , and also change with age ,

    December 16, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  4. Jaclyn Green-Stock

    Today's movies and books are saying that women and men are very different from each other. Conversely, Austen was stating that women and men are not so different at all.

    "In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.
    Northanger Abbey, 1818

    December 16, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  5. Melinda from Ohio

    I read all of Jane Austen books and got hooked on her. I then studied everything there is to know about her. I did all my papers in my composition classes in college on her. The day of my final college exam I gave everyone in class an invitation to a ball and bookmarkers that a woman from the Jane Austen society gave me. In class I told spoke about the era Jane lived and talked about the how ball dancing was their way of entertainment and I took the movie Emma to show the class how they danced in that era. If you didn't know how to dance or like balls, then you didn't have much of a social life. I was facinated with her and with those times. Her books take you right there into those times.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  6. Scott

    Why do some women think Jane Austin is an example? Just think, if Lindsay Lohan or the young star of the horrible reality show "Pretty Wild" had followed some of Jane Austin's advice.

    Lohan would still have a career and the other girl wouldn't be locked up in jail.

    Austin's books illustrate women and men that think before they act. If they are angry they deal with it as adults, they don't go out in public spitting and throwing drinks in people's faces. But that behavior doesn't make the kind of TV that the Reality shows want to air. They would rather search out unbalanced criminals in the making, or "Real Housewives" who are spending their families into bankruptcy just to show off.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  7. Vesta Southwell

    I used to work with a consultant in the tourism industry, with whom I enjoyed many hours of debate and discussion, mainly because he seemed to trust my instinct as I am a great judge of character. However, I am a scorpio and embody with pride the sexual nature of my sun sign and I was known throughout the office to be very outspoken on sexual matters. When the consultant was leaving our office, we gathered to celebrate his assistance and to send him off. Everyone waited to hear my comments, as many insinuations were made, jokingly, about our (his and mine) get togethers in the past, so I said this: I will miss you dearly as you have always engaged me in my most favourite passion (everyone looked at each other, nodded and snickered) conversation, I concluded, while he alone nodded. Though our connection was never physical, It soared high above the audience's every assumption. Conversation is my greatest aphrodisiac.

    December 16, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  8. Jeff McWhirter

    Embracing anything is staying true to who you are not becoming some nebulous idea of what you think you should be. If i embrace my manhood, it only means i know how to act like a gentleman not become and jacka$$, the same goes for you women out there. Think about it.

    December 16, 2010 at 6:47 am |