View Full Version : A SECULAR AND NARROW WORLD: Hers and Ours?

Ron Price
06-04-2008, 09:57 AM
My mother-in-law, a woman in her late eighties, finds watching movies adapted from Jane Austen’s novels boring. Her attitude mirrors, somewhat, the reaction of novelist Henry James who saw the characters in Austen’s novels as having “small and second-rate minds,” Philistines one and all. Emerson found Austen to be imprisoned in a wretched and smothering conventionality with an excessive concern for “marriageableness.”1 Not everyone has reacted this way to Austen, not now nor in the nearly two centuries since her death in 1817. Some saw her writing as “a prose Shakespeare,”2 a writer who exposed with her acid solution of words the empty foundations of social and personal morality in a violent and repressive age in English society.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Lee Siegel, “A Writer Who Is Good For You,” The Atlantic Online, January 1998; and 2William MacAuley in Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, Vol. 2, B.C. Southam, editor, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1987.

There is nothing to equal
your smallness in a small
town and the commonplace
has never found a finer master
than your divine chatter some
have said, Jane, yes they have.

Petty inconsistencies, parochial
vanities, familiar everydayisms,
vulgarity and pride, delineated
as entertainment and amusement,
tissues of character in speech,
gently undulating life-surface,
triviality but intense relations,
satire’s world without bitterness,
hermetically sealed with supreme
moments quite inarticulate giving
you: coolness, patience, poise and
leisure obtained so you could write
and me too, Jane!----and me too!

Your wholly secular and narrow
world with people you disliked,
tolerated but accepted in the only
society you knew where nothing
was too little for your little world
and happiness=simple pleasures.1

Balance, moderation, courtesy:
recipe for survival in two worlds—
yours and ours—inner landscapes—
the triumph of the ordinarily ordinary
and the inherited order over change:2
but we can’t triumph with that recipe
and order can we Jane? Can we Jane?
Nor could you---would you, Jane?3

1 Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays, editor, Ian Watt, Prentice-Hall Inc., Inglewood Cliffs, N.J., 1963, p. 172.
2 Adena Rosmarin, “Misreading Emma: The Powers and Perfidies of Interpretive History, English Literary History, Vol. 51, pp. 315-42.
3 What would Austen have written if she had lived beyond the age of 41?

Ron Price
4 June 2008

06-25-2008, 07:44 PM
I personally like both Austen and Henry James lol

Austen only described the society in which she lived in. She had no high social status to have more freedom (and she also happened to be a woman), so she wrote about the things she was familiar with.

If your mother-in-law isn't partial to Jane Austen, I recommend the Bronte sisters for her. Their style is far more different and passionate. She might enjoy their books more, as well as the movie adaptations.

If she had lived more, I think that her books would have been similar to Persuasion rather than Pride and Prejudice, with more description and narrative. Her last unfinished novel, Sandition, would have apparently been a satire of a changing society (I believe that would have required a lot of description).

Ron Price
08-25-2009, 08:12 AM
My belated apprecation, antonia1990...Ron in Australia

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 01:40 AM

The novels of Jane Austen(1775-1817) about marriage are firmly established as literary classics, part of the literary canon, at least until many a post-modernist began to question this canon in the last half-century. But what of the love life of the woman who penned the famous novels? What was the romance in her life?

Written by Gwyneth Hughes the TV drama, Miss Austen Regrets(1) provides an insight into Austen's own romantic life examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction as she did for more than a century, she died having never married. "Why was this?" is at the heart of this TV drama. "The script is very tightly based on Austen's surviving letters,” says Hughes, “letters to her sister and to her young niece, Fanny. So I must share the credit for quite a lot of the dialogue with Miss Austen herself!”

I watched this delightful portrayal—delightful because I had become a little familiar with Jane Austen by the time I was nearly 70. I had taught Jane Austen's Emma back in the early 1990s to students wanting to get into university the following year. Emma was and is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The novel was first published in December 1815, the year Napoleon was exiled on Saint Helena. Readers with an interest in history might like to try and link Austen to the history of the times, but they will have trouble since Austen rarely mentions the wider vistas of the historical process.

As in her other novels, Austen explores, in Emma, the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian-Regency England; she also creates a lively comedy of manners among her characters. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma, however, is also rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives, and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.

But to return to Gwyneth Hughes and the TV drama, Miss Austen Regrets. Hughes goes on to say that she came across the most extraordinary fact that: “Jane Austen did receive a proposal of marriage from a wealthy young neighbour. And she accepted! She actually said yes to him but, then, after a long night of discussion with her sister and confidante and companion, Cassandra, she changed her mind. This intriguing decision inspired the story of Miss Austen Regrets.” (1) –Ron Price with thanks to (1) ABC1, “Jane Austen Regrets,” 23/24 October 2011, 11:45-1:15. This BBC drama was first screened more than 4 years ago.

These movies about Austen and her novels(1)
tell us as much about ourselves as about her,
so I would argue & did argue back in the '90s.

They bring to our attention our own desires
and expectations regarding romance....They
leave us with a sense that our life’s reactions
are as complex, contradictory and challenging
as the novels themselves.....Austen like many(2)
of us was removed from the contingencies of
history, but far, far, from oblivious to them!!!

How can we be not oblivious with radios, TVs,
newspapers.......and the cornucopia of media
flooding our eyes and minds—imaginations on
a daily basis. I knew nothing of Austen until the
‘90s teaching literature and part of the Baha’i
community in the last years of a professional
life as a teacher & tutor, educator and editor.

Austen awakened me to the complex ambiguity
of truth and much else, although I did not find
her the prose-Shakespeare which many many
others seemed to rave on when they read her.(3)

(1) By the 1930s Austen had become the mark of cultivated taste in the US; by the 1940s Austen had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer, even a prose-Shakespeare as one critic put it. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite or Austen fan culture.

(2) For an excellent overview of the adaptations of Jane Austen to cinema and television see: Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield, eds, Jane Austen in Hollywood, UP of Kentucky, 1998.

(3) For an excellent overview of Austen’s writings, her aims and intentions, go to the following link: http://madamepickwickartblog.com/2010/10/jane-austen-essential-ambiguities-of-the-heart/ Austen’s literary techniques allowed her to express what a person of her acute insight felt: “astonishment at the way the most outrageously deformed personalities are allowed an effective part in society, because society attends seriously to lip service and rationalization” and, I might add, obsolescent political and religious systems in the evenings of their lives.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 01:45 AM
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister is a 2010 British television biographical drama about a 19th century Yorkshire landowner Anne Lister.(1) The Real Anne Lister(2) followed on Australian television. Anne Lister (1791–1840) was a wealthy, unmarried woman who inherited land from her uncle in 1826.

Just for the record and to place Anne Lister and her diaries in some historical perspective, 1826 was the year the second president of the United States, John Adams, died and the year the first photograph was taken. Most people I've known in the last 50 years know little to nothing about John Adams although, for the visually keen there was a wonderful TV series on Adams a few years ago. And also, just for the record, the view of early 19th century England, at least in literature, in fiction writing is seen, for those people who read 19th century literature, through the eyes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Lister's diaries will enrich and diversify whatever view readers have of those times some two hundred years ago.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) ABC1TV, 13 November 2011, 8:30-10:05 p.m., and (2) ABC1 TV, 12 March 2012, 12;30-1:30 a.m.

Some said the film was sex-obsessed(1)
on those wild-windy Yorkshire moors:
this story of the first modern lesbian, &
part of the fountainhead of queer studies(2)
say some scholars of lesbian sexuality!!

1 The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
2 Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender(LGBT) people and cultures. Universities have also labelled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, or Sexualities Studies. Once only meaning odd or unusual, and later an anti-gay epithet, "queer" used in reference to such individuals and communities remains controversial. Originally centred on LGBT history and literary theory, the field has expanded to include the academic study of issues raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, the history of science, philosophy, psychology, political science, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 01:48 AM

There is a conservatism in many of the great novelists which is not accidental: Balzac, Jane Austen, Henry James, Proust, Tolstoy, Hardy, Dickens, Flaubert, Joyce, et al. They all needed to believe, as we do, in the essentialness and continuity of our ordinary daily life. All needed their characters to move, not too energetically, in a solid world of relationships. Don't we all! This ‘conservatism at the centre’ is, it seems to me, part of what is at the core of much that is community, just about any community. There is a sameness, a routine, an inevitability, a calendar of events, a structure of time and place, where one sees the same people over and over again and most of what happens, at least in our little worlds, is predictable.

In this framework it is often the episode, the singular illumination, something unruly and momentary, which compresses life itself into some other feature, a feature we often enjoy or a feature that brings to us fear and trembling. Life's conservatism, some other aspect of life's absoluteness, life's seeming inevitability, is joined by an aspect of life itself which is, as one writer put it, bursting. -Ron Price with thanks to Paul Zweig, The Adventurer, quoted in A Body of Water, Beverley Farmer, University of Queensland Press, 1990, pp.3-4.

And the poet tells of the episode,
like a ripe fruit or an explosion,
some bursting, some absoluteness,
some compression, part of life’s
spectacle, an emerging, more than
ordinary stuff, something which chills
us especially if that was all there was,
in the prison of form. This poet has an
obsession which runs inward & escapes
notice except to his intimate friends.

He delights in solitude, a living wholeness,
and a unison, people, a vivid aliveness in
the here and now informed by all that has
gone and is to be and a timelessless that is
the present and eternity: the land of light!!

Ron Price
3/4/'99 to 2/1/'13.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 01:51 AM

We are informed by the author on page one of this latest biography of Jane Austen, the great nineteenth century British novelist, that she was “pretty”, “attractive”, “both in appearance and personality.” We are also informed in the preface that Austen had “a life of disappointment and frustration.”(1) We are also told why this was so.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Valerie Grosvenor Myer, Obstinate Heart: Jane Austen A Biography, Michael O’Mara Books Ltd., 1997, Preface and p.1.

I, too, have had a life of disappointment and frustration which I have described in the several genres of my autobiographical work entitled Pioneering Over Five Epochs. Any reader can read my 2600 page oeuvre in its periodic and not infrequent occurrences throughout cyberspace. But there is little question that, in overview, I have also enjoyed “a fundamentally assured and happy way of life.”(1) Of course, it was a life not without anxieties, disappointments, trials, tests and periods of deep grief and depression. But in retrospect, in viewing the totality of my days, as I have clearly indicated on many occasions, I can say in all honesty that I have had a happy and confident life experience. In achieving this there have been many keen spiritual tests, only some of which I have passed. -Ron Price with thanks to the (1) The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.18.

Sometimes I sit in the cool of the garden
at peace with the world and myself. A jet
may pass slowly, silently, through distant
blue sky. I feel at ease with its smallness,
its small angular place on the blue horizon.

Then there are the heart-rendering shocks
of depression, of anxiety, unfulfilled desires,
of a broken marriage, of anticipations fear &
tension. Such a vast collection of moments
& hours, days & years, deep grief, pleasure
and joy, of tests passed and unpassed......in
these transition years of a life left behind &
now its traces, traces, its days gone swiftly by
swift as the twinkling of an eye, with celestial
blessings to come, in many oceans of light.(1 & 2)

Ron Price
3/6/'99 to 2/1/'13.

(1) The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message BE156.
(2) ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, USA, 1970, p.23.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 01:57 AM

It is said that an artist’s work is the sum total of his or her experience. The artist does not create from a tabula rasa, but from a rich menu of specific and unspecific experience, grey and vague, highly and variously coloured. The artist drafts his own destiny as he drafts his music, his art, his sculpture or his poetry. And he is never sure, as Stephen Spender(1909-1995) puts it, however confident the artist may be, whether he has misdirected his energy, or whether his poetry is insignificant, irrelevant or great and important. Spender was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work. He was appointed the seventeenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the United States Library of Congress in 1965. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 8/8/'00 to 1/1/'13.

A mind lively and at ease
is a gift of fortune & gives
meaning and value to our
perceived experience,(1)
to the deep and very rich
satisfaction of my own writing
and to the slow charting of the
progress toward our destiny.

The unperturbed mind
is quickest and can deal
with the vanity of vanities, life,
which we must both accept and
reject, which pierces us with its
nonsense and its strange relations.

1 Jane Austen, Emma.

Ron Price
8/8/'00 to 1/1/'13

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 02:11 AM

Human beings need to have a sense of continuous personal identity and that is why some tell their story in the form of an autobiography, a diary/journal, a novel or, perhaps, a collection of letters or essays. Often human beings with such proclivities see their lives as structures of necessity and so they invent themselves, embellish the truth, improving, filtering and purifying it. They want to explain themselves to themselves not in terms of the way things appear to be or are, but in terms of the way they want them to be. These autobiographical forms become, then, a wrestling with the truth, a form of self-justification, self-affirmation and a form of self-defence against outer and inner forces, a search for understanding, for identity.

When I became a Baha’i in 1959 Anais Nin had completed some ninety volumes of diary over forty-five years. It was a diary that contained a self-created portrait, written she says by another self.(1) Nin was a prodigious diary writer producing, finally, some 250,000 hand-written pages, the last in 1976, the year I began to teach at what is now the University of Ballarat. I taught students working on their: BA, BSc. Dip. Ed., and other degree and diploma programs in the years 1976 to 1978. I knoe wnothing of Nin back then some 37 years ago.

Nin wanted her writing and her life to match, to be integrated.(2) There were secrets she wanted kept; she also wanted acceptance by other writers and fame.(3) In the end she got all she wanted. She also got cancer and with it a heavy sorrow at her loss of energy and the fire in her life. Her sense of distance from others was also a cause of much sorrow to her in her latter years.(4) -Ron Price with thanks to Deidre Bair, Anais Nin: A Biography, Bloomsbury Pub., 1995, (1)p.478, (2)p. 320, (3)p.496 and (4)p.507.

You felt a great peace in the end,
an absence of strain,the weight of
the burden shed, the secret out,
at last, at long last, eh, Anias?(1)

And as you sat among your diaries,
petty & old fashioned, full of cliches
as they were, one women’s view of(2)
herself and her life, did you wonder
what it all meant, alone & sorrowful?

You improved, filtered and purified
your thoughts to your best friend
from 1914 to 1977, your world,
your true self, your books....your
book for posterity and yourself...
for your own dear, so dear, self.

(1) the secret of her bigamy.
(2) Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review, 1976.

Ron Price
2/9/'00 to 2/1/'13.


I feel in a similar way to Nin about my poetry and prose writing, but I strive for a more honest expression of the events. The autobiographical self I create is only partly, predominantly, of the mind, as it was for writers like Emily Dickinson. My autobiography or memoire, is also partly of the environment. But it is not so much one of a small world and a small town, of the commonplace with its chit-chat and the gently undulating surface of life, the landscape and its population as it was for Jane Austen.

My work has its secrets, its privacy and its self-exposure. I do not tell it all. Nor do I bother much with an articulation of the events of dailiness, the trivial and the ephemeral. Although the self has a central place, my poetry has a fluid, fragmentary, cumulative and elastic form. It drifts in a loosely knit shape, imparting a vibration and a trace of an intensity I’ve had all my pioneering days and before them in my pre-pioneering years when sport and girls, school and family occupied my attention. Now I make a gesture toward publicity, displaying before an impersonal public my interpretation of experience-and especially my Baha’i experience over five epochs. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 2/9/'00 to 1/1/’13.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 02:29 AM
Good principles, even allied to good sense and affection, may not have good results or produce happiness. Jane Austen knew this.(1) Personal happiness, as 'Abdu'l-Baha points out to us, is the result of character, learning, high resolve, ability to solve difficult problems and nobility of soul. Clearly, happiness is a composite drawing on an inner life and private character. What we do, too, affects what we are and what we become.

Jane Austen's novel Emma which was on the curriculum in the early 1990s when I taught English literature to matriculation students in Western Australia is the story of a gradual and humble self-enlightenment in a life. But a wholly secularized life with no spiritual awareness is a narrow one(2) and the nature of that self-enlightenment limited. The quotidian and provincial, the shallow, narrow life which is "frittered away over little things"(3) misses the mark of life's purpose which is to fill this "narrow place of shadows" with light.(4)-Ron Price with thanks to (2)B.C. Southam, editor, Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, Vol.2, Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1987, p.110; and (1)W.A. Craik in Persuasion, Jane Austen, Pan Books, London, 1969(1818), p.4; (3)"Misreading Emma: The Powers and perfidies of Interpretive History," Adena Rosmarin, in ELH, Vol.51, 1984, p.316; and (4) 'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, p.36.

Even someone like you1
looked for means, a way
of achieving unobtrusive
spiritual survival,
a mode of existence
for your critical attitudes
without being didactic,
knowing as you did
the impossibility of being
cut off from objectionable
others and the objectionable
stuff in your own dear self.

You had, as I have come to have,
a strong ambivalence to the group,
knowing as you did the narrowness
of a wholly secularized life.

In some ways your Emma, like my
Pioneering Over Five Epochs,
is a complex study of a life,
existing as it does on a continuum
between self-importance and humility,
egotism and self-effacement,
with beauty and continuity
underlying the trivial and the serious
stream that is our life and lives.

1 Jane Austen

Ron Price
21/8//’-1 to 1/1/’13.

Ron Price
01-01-2013, 02:36 AM

In the first week of April 1999 I taught my last class as a full-time lecturer and teacher in Perth Western Australia after some thirty years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student. That same month a 22 year old former member of the British National Party and the National Socialist Movement, David John Copeland, who became known as the "London Nail Bomber," set out on a 13-day bombing campaign aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities. I was finishing some marking at the time and enjoying an Australian autumn, always my favorite season Downunder.

Over three successive weekends between April 17 and 30, Copeland placed homemade nail bombs, each containing up to 1,500 four-inch nails in three locations: outside a supermarket in Brixton an area of south London with a large black population, in Brick Lane in the east end of London an area with a large South Asian community and; finally, in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho's Old Compton Street, the heart of London's gay community. The bombs killed three and injured 129.

Although Copeland was diagnosed by five psychiatrists as having paranoid schizophrenia his plea of diminished responsibility was not accepted by the prosecution which was under pressure not to concede to his pleas of guilty of manslaughter. He was convicted of murder on June 30, 2000, and given six concurrent life sentences. By this time I had taken a sea-change to Tasmania and was living on the Tamar River near the Bass Strait itself an extension of the Great Southern Ocean on the west and the TasmanSea on the east. -Ron Price with thanks to M. K. Chakrabarti, “Marketplace Multiculturalism--Brick Lane: A Novel by Monica Ali,” in Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum, December 2003/January 2004 and Wikipedia, 16 April 2010.

What can not be changed must be borne,
and since there is so much that can not be
changed, there is much that must be borne.
This is a central principle of life which one
comes to accept sooner or later, hopefully,
with radiant acquiescence......I could echo
this Boston Review article or Jane Austen
here with my daily life-tale that unfolds at
its own mysterious pace, meanings often
withheld, a smile at some thing unseen, &
an atmosphere of perfect control & courtesy
mixed with very fine satire and that endless
concern for quotidian reality imprisoned in
a world of English or just social conventions.

My outer life had been far from uneventful
over all those decades, certainly not like the
uneventful life of Jane Austen, as fas as we
know. My letters did not reveal the humour
of battered pride and obstructed genius with
the satire, even redemption, some cruelty &
perhaps a genuine and very natural outrage.(1)

You put the whole world into question, Jane,
left it stable and whole—and dangling—and
it’s still dangling as if, it seems, by a thread;
at other times it dangles mysteriously, and at
still other times it dangles so very predictably.

(1) Lee Siegel, “A Writer Who is Good For You,” The Atlantic Online, January 1998.

Ron Price
18/4/’10 to 1/1/’13.

Ron Price
01-28-2013, 07:01 PM

Walking has been an important, a common, a pleasurable, part of my life as a teacher, a student, a parent, a husband, a man, a Baha’i, as a person in a great range of roles over my 70 year lifetime. I can remember walking with my mother in the evenings before going to bed for the night as far back as 1962 at the outset of my travelling-pioneering. Over the years walking has been a form of exercise, therapy, a mild relief to depression. But walking for more than three hours in a day, as I did yesterday, has been a rare occurrence in my life. Chris, Daniel, Chris' sister Barbara and I walked from Badger's Head near the western end of the Tamar River to Copper Cove on the Bass Strait. It was a cold and windy day near the end of winter.

I tried to recall the other times in my life when I walked as far and for as long a time: Wittenoom in the Hamersley Range in 1986/7? Algonquin Park in 1970/1? Perhaps somewhere in southern Ontario when I was growing up, say, about 1962/3? These are guesses. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 19 August 2001.

The true subject of serious poetry
is, for me, not current events,
ongoing wars or political issues,
but the expression, the definition,
the description of my home,
a personal creation,
partly an external form,
partly an inner state
which flows from my experience,
imagination, memory, comprehension,
the arc of my life with its warps, gaps,
gasps of enthusiasm, interest and concern.

Partly it’s a respect for my human trajectory
lapping as it does the years
of a new millennium,
one of history's climacterics.

There has been a growing confidence
in my writing ability
as the millennium approached,
an assurance which defended me
against a distant and pervasive indifference,
a gathering faith in my talent,
regularity and self-ordered patterns
have come to assist the process
and creativity finally and sharply
focused on this creative word1
in this home, this inner place.

Like walking, it has become
an important, a common,
a pleasurable part of my life
with rare, very rare, stretches
of more than three hours.

1Carol Shields, Jane Austen, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 2001.

Ron Price
19 August 2001

Ron Price
01-28-2013, 07:08 PM

The Canadian poet Roger White would have agreed with Jane Austen when she wrote: "Real solemn history, I cannot be interested in. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing and hardly any women at all."(1) The record of the past has never been easy to render; in some basic ways the content of the social sciences in general is much more complex than the physical sciences and so the telling of history, in or out of poetic form, is a difficult task. It helps to know a great deal and it helps to have thought long and hard about it. So often it is in vain that with retrospective eye we can conclude a motive from the deed. For character is unstable, life at best only partly explainable and the individual only understandable to a degree. It is not surprising that for many, even the more informed, history still is what it was to Gibbon two and a half centuries ago: "little more that the register of the crimes, the follies and misfortunes of mankind".

History for Roger White also was, as Gibbon put it much later in that grand work, "a record of the transactions of the past for the instruction of future ages". White knew what the American historian Charles Beard once wrote, that "the writing of history was an act of faith", that the historian, the poet, indeed, all of us, must makes certain assumptions, wind our emotions around these assumptions and proceed through life. As far as possible we must ground these assumptions in truth, in fact, but inevitably there is an act of faith involved somewhere in the process. White knew that facts about the past "are no more history", as historian of biography Ira Nadel expressed it in a light and perceptive way, "than butter, eggs and pepper are an omelette". They must be whipped up and played in a special fashion.

For White the writing of poetry, and his particular take on history, is a 'dance of life', as the Australian poet A.D. Hope once defined the art of poetry. Some pedestrian or not-so-pedestrian person in Baha'i history acquires a fresh new life with a compactness, an economy of language, a concern for things as they really happened, as the nineteenth century historian Leopold von Ranke would have expressed the recording of history. White does what Karl Popper advocates in his The Poverty of Historicism. He consciously introduces "a preconceived point of view" into his history and writes "that history which interests" him, but he does not twist the facts until they fit a framework of preconceived ideas, nor does he neglect the facts that do not fit in.

Popper says that such an approach, that is the introducing of a preconceived point of view, should be seen as one that begins with a scientific hypothesis. Such a focus of historical interest, Popper emphasizes, is a historical interpretation. Of course one should endeavour, as far as possible, to know the facts of history but, as Kant once argued, it is difficult if not impossible to know the facts, the reality, of things. The real use in knowing what happened in history lies in the interpretation of history's facts, its events. The re-creation of a life is one of the most beautiful and difficult tasks a literary artist can perform.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Jane Austen, "Quotations on History," Internet, 2002.

Ron Price
01-28-2013, 07:20 PM

Many people feel their lives have been much like the people in Jane Austen's novels: nothing much happens. Still, for millions in the last 200 years, they eagerly turn the page of Austen's take on life waiting for what happens next. For the drama of the life of many writers is in some ways like Lord Acton's, only on a different scale. That drama was a drama of ideas. Just as Acton's life illustrates the influence that powerful minds, past and present, exerted over his development, so does the life of many writers.

The whole of creation, Baha'u'llah writes, referring to His time, has been "revolutionized and all that are in the heavens and on the earth were stirred to the depths." In 1921 T.S. Eliot expressed this change as a 'dissociation of sensibility.' Others have called it a paradigm shift. Society has not recovered; indeed, the tempest is still with us. For this writer, there has been a multitude of manifestations of this quite complex and profound shift and I try to describe this shift in my writing, in my poetry.

I see myself very much like the type of literary critic that Eliot calls 'the advocate:' to help readers find merit in what they once overlooked, to find charm in what may have been first experienced as a certain tedium vitae or boredom, to remind others that there is a depth in poetry that simply must be tapped. I often try to simply express my gratitude to others, some posthumously, on behalf of many of the lovers of someone's poetry. There are no explicit canons of criticism. What is needed is a meeting of the author's intention and the critic's appreciation. "Worthwhile criticism," writes Herbert Read, has as its basis "pathos, sympathy and empathy." To some extent, too, my commentary is a by-product of my own creative activity.

As 'Abdu'l-Baha said many times, the reality of man is his thought and it is my thought and the thought of others that my books are devoted to, for the most part. If former American poet laureate Robert Pinsky is right about what constitutes good poetry over poetry that is dross, namely, that it will admit abstract statement, then some of my poems are good ones. They certainly tell you what I and others are thinking with a fair portion of abstract thought. They also, or so it seems to me, spread an imaginative solitude that, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, "works best in silence and in isolation."

Ron Price
04-13-2013, 06:23 AM
In the Canadian Journal of Philosophy and the Humanities, Animus Vol. 15(2011), John Baxter of Dalhousie University wrote what I found to be a helpful article. It was entitled: GEORGE WHALLEY AND A WAY OF THINKING ABOUT SHAKESPEARE. In that article Baxter quotes Whalley from this source: “Jane Austen: Poet,” Jane Austen’s Achievement, ed. Juliet McMaster (London: The MacMillan Press, 1976), 108-09. The essay was reprinted in George Whalley, Studies in Literature and the Humanities: Innocence of Intent, eds. Brian Crick and John Ferns (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985), 145-74----as follows:

"Austen, he argues, is a poet in two senses: (1) in her craftsmanship in language; and (2) in the conduct of the action within each novel. In the first sense, we need to consider fine-grained detail with an ear alert to the dynamics of language; in the second, we are concerned with the disposition of forces within the whole universe of a novel, particularly that mutual definition of plot and character the product of which Aristotle called drama, the thing done, or what I may elsewhere—to distinguish it from the ‘action’ that is sheer motion—also call ‘pure action’; the one sense discloses itself on a small scale, the other on a large scale. The evidence for each is of a particular kind, each different from the other. Yet both kinds or functions interact upon each other and can be seen to be poetic because both reside at the heart, or at the roots, of imaginative activity."

I found this reference helpful because I find that prose and poetry blend and fold and, for much of my writing, they are indistinguishable. To refer to Austen as a poet, then, reinforces my own way of writing.-Ron Price, Tasmania

Ron Price
04-13-2013, 07:28 AM
THE GREATEST WRITERS: Jane Austen and Shakespeare

There are many reasons that my writing is far, far, from the category of "the greatest of writers." My writing does not rise to a level of impersonality. My writing is highly memoiristic and autobiographical; indeed my writing relies on authorial self-projection. Writers such as Jane Austen and Shakespeare are considered the greatest of writers for many reasons. One reason is that their characters rise to a level of impersonality that is not to be explained, or explained away, as authorial self-projection. Their characters are defined crucially by their autonomy, independence and integrity. This is not simply because the characters are endowed with voices of their own, that is, endowed with their own highly individuated speech patterns. They also live within what one could call the context of the whole universe that is the literary work in which they appear.

As a crucial passage in Aristotle's Poetics expresses this idea: the force of great artists is not merely in representing men and women, but in a mimesis of action, or what might be called pure action. In this realm of pure action neither authors nor actors are primarily interested in presenting, directly or indirectly, their own characters. The greatest of writers "embrace their characters for the sake of the actions they are to do.”(1) --Ron Price with thanks to Aristotle, Poetics, page 73. For a detailed discussion of this somewhat complex subject go to: http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/animus/Articles/Volume%2015/3_Baxter.pdf