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PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen


by Jane Austen with edited by David M. Shapard

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-9745053-0-7

A mammoth edition, including the novel, illustrations, maps, a chronology, and bibliography, but mostly thousands of annotations that run the gamut from revealing to ridiculous.

New editions of revered works usually exist either to dumb down or to illuminate the original. Since its appearance in 1813, Austen's most famous work has spawned numerous illustrated and abridged versions geared toward younger readers, as well as critical editions for the scholarly crowd. One would think that this three-pounder would fall squarely in the latter camp based on heft alone. But for various other reasons, Shapard's edition is not so easily boxed. Where Austen's work aimed at a wide spectrum of the 19th-century reading audience, Shapard's seems geared solely toward young lit students. No doubt conceived with the notion of highlighting Austen's brilliance, the 2,000-odd annotations–printed throughout on pages facing the novel's text–often end up dwarfing it. This sort of arrangement, which would work extremely well as hypertext, is disconcerting on the printed page. The notes range from helpful glosses of obscure terms to sprawling expositions on the perils awaiting the character at hand. At times, his comments are so frequent and encyclopedic that one might be tempted to dispense with Austen altogether; in fact, the author's prefatory note under "plot disclosures" kindly suggests that first-time readers might "prefer to read the text of the novel first, and then to read the annotations and introduction." Those with a term paper due in the morning might skip ahead to the eight-page chronology–not of Austen's life, but of the novel's plot–at the back. In the end, Shapard's herculean labor of love comes off as more scholastic than scholarly.

An exhaustive and exhausting marriage of Austen's Pride and a modern reader’s analysis of it.