Reading, Writing, Thinking
Reading Jane Austen as a Moral Philosopher
Thomas Rodham keenly observes Jane Austen’s exacting ethical expertise.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) wrote delicious romantic comedies about middle-class girls looking for good husbands among the landed gentry of Regency England. But if that were all there was to it we wouldn’t take her any more seriously now than the genre hacks published by Mills and Boon. What’s so special about her novels that we are still reading them today? It’s not just their literary quality. Austen was also a brilliant moral philosopher who analysed and taught a virtue ethics for middle-class life that is surprisingly contemporary. Appreciating this can help us understand why she wrote the way she did, and how and why we should read her today.