Persuasion Week One: Ch. 1-3, vol. I

The Summer Old Book Club is finally here!

We are headed into (fingers crossed) a better season than most of us have had in a while, so I wanted to do something lighter and more social for the summer. Get out your regency dresses, practice your subtle insults, and prepare to be thrilled by lingering eye contact—we are reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion! I have gathered some friends to discuss this incredible novel with me. These friends include two English professors, a math curriculum specialist for public schools, the aforesaid structural engineer, a tutor for kids with reading disabilities, a documentary maker for NPR, and more. They share in common that they are smart, thoughtful, kind, curious people who are willing to talk about Jane Austen with me. Some of them have never read Persuasion before; some of them teach Persuasion every year to college students! We will read three chapters at a time across these two months. I’m hoping you will join us as well for this summer reading adventure, and I’m giving plenty of advance notice so that if you wish, you can procure a copy and even start reading. Form your own reading groups, or read the novel in an existing book club, and invite friends to listen in on the podcast and have your own discussions (preferably with a glass of summery wine).

This week, Dr. Jessica Ward talks the very first part of Persuasion with me. My good friend Jessica grew up in Texas. She got her doctorate in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and specialized in medieval literature like myself. We met while she took a class at Duke with one of my advisors, who ended up being one of her advisors as well. We both work on intersections of theology, ethics, and literature in medieval poetry. Her dissertation was on the role of avarice in late medieval English poetry, and it was pretty amazing. I would know, because we have been in a writing group together for about seven years and we have read a lot of each other’s writing over the years. She is a generous, faithful friend. A gifted teacher and brilliant scholar, she is now Assistant Professor of Early British Literature at Mercy College in New York City. Jessica is married to George and a dog-mom to two adorable shih tzus, who sometimes join us on writing group Zoom calls. 

We spend a lot of time discussing the amazing, sharply humorous beginning of this book and meet all the characters, including our heroine, Anne Elliot. Check out our conversation either on the podcast service of your choice or on Youtube, which I’ve embedded below. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave comments on the video or blog if you have questions or ideas you want to discuss. I’d love to hear them.

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