Mine: ex-Catholic. I think that about covers it. So the 'wreck' would be my religious beliefs. I'll expand on that in a moment.
Austen’s: according to a review about a book by Michael Giffin (author, editor, and Anglican priest) called “Jane Austen and Religion: Salvation and Society in Georgian England," which says Austen's work: "prompts us to acknowledge one contextual dimension generally uncongenial to contemporary critics but entirely central to Austen’s worldview: religion. Giffin is right to insist on the seamlessness of Austen’s religious and social attitudes: “Austen’s social commentaries are religious commentaries and vice versa.” In refocusing our attention to the high level of authorial intrusion and narrative control Austen exercises throughout her work, Giffin argues that contemporary scholarship has been inadequately attentive to the didactic dimensions of her work, including the presumptions about the didactic role of literature held by her contemporary Georgian and generally Anglican audience."
This unity of social and religious views makes sense, as Austen rarely mentions anything religious in her novels; even those characters who are bound to be clergymen are treated/rendered as making a career choice rather than having a calling. Our social and religious views are now so variously divided that we, the average reader, read the novels in a social context rather than a religious one.
According to the book review by Laura Mooneyham White on the JASNA website, "Giffin sees each heroine on a pilgrimage towards the earthly version of soteria, or redemptive wholeness, tested by the allures of a romantic worldview and by faulty interpretations of the right." A fascinating idea that adds another dimension to one's reading of the novels. And also obvious if you think about it. Of course she knew the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer, and surely numerous other religious treatises. And of course these teachings blended seamlessly into her writing.
Oh, 'soteria' means deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation. I'll save you the trouble of looking it up.
There is no doubt that there is a strong moral code in the books that I respect and aspire to, but I'm more comfortable attributing this to a general model of best behavior rather than one filtered through a religious lens. Thinking of Austen as so religious that her beliefs and faith permeate the texts somehow just doesn't jive with the Austen I've come to know through her books. But that's just me. Ex-Catholic, remember? All things religious still give me the heebie jeebies.
The review also highlights a little known fact that I'd come across in another book - Austen wrote several prayers to lead her family in when her father was absent. "The prayers remind us that Austen’s Christianity was not minimal; rather, her active faith ordered her sense of her place in the social sphere, not just among the striving gentry but among the orphans, prisoners, widows, family members at sea and abroad, and even victims of her errant wit she speaks of in her devotions."
Here's an example of one of them, which has the theme of self-analysis, already mentioned as a key skill for Austen heroines to have:
Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls. May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of Thee, have we disobeyed Thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our heart these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity. Amen.
Anyone who keeps a journal is no stranger to this type of reflection, though perhaps not quite so thorough. For my part, I believe we have a Higher Self, or a Force of Good that we all share and tap into (don't laugh - but like the Star Wars force even! Ok, it's silly, but still somehow works), and that is what I substitute for 'God' in passages or quotes such as this.
Regardless, Austen, as usual, leads the way beautifully and with her usual elegant and wise simplicity.
So, despite how foreign the Episcopal service was to me (and yet so familiar due to its similarities to a Catholic service), how like another language that does not inspire me at all, I'm willing to continue to attend to try to make some connection, to try to see/feel/hear through Austen's eyes, as much as I can. I owe her that much.
Next post: I'd like to discuss the process of self-reflection given by the author of Dating Mr. Darcy (which turned out to be surprisingly serious and full of good common sense), comprised of four steps: solitude, self-analysis, confession, and moving forward. I will substitute 'admission' for confession, as I absolutely, wholeheartedly reject the idea of 'original sin' (it's a terrible black mark to lay upon something as beautiful as the human soul).
'Confession' implies a need for forgiveness for wrongdoing - a looking outside of oneself for correction. And fear. 'Admission' implies a willing examination of one's actions and thoughts that gives one entrance (admission) to a greater, more expansive self that one can share with others. Much nicer, friendlier, and respectful of the fact that we are human. Being human shouldn't be a sin in and of itself, which it usually is in some religions.
More reading on the subject from Mr. Giffin - an article on the JASNA website:
More info on Steventon Church, where Austen's father was Rector:
Info on Anglicanism: