Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Timothy Yenter on Sense and Sensibility



This is entry #56 in our 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Timothy Yenter, University of Mississippi

Artwork: Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Levenson, unabridged audio recording, 11 CDs, 12h 43m, copyright 2005

Words: Jane Austen’s family loved reading aloud. Austen debuted new work this way, usually to her family’s acclaim, so she was troubled by her mother’s poor reading of Pride and Prejudice. Reading aloud is even praised by Fanny in Mansfield Park, who seriously objects to acting.

But what is the relationship between a novel and its public reading? Can a recording of Juliet Stevenson’s excellent reading of Austen’s novels be an artwork? Is it a performance, interpretation, translation, artwork, or all four? Does Austen’s expectation that her novels would sometimes be read aloud matter?

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