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Claudia Johnson

Claudia Johnson teaches English at Princeton. Her books include Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel.

The history of the novel

Claudia Johnson, 8 March 2001

Where other studies have examined the history of the novel in relation to romance, to the rise of the middle class or to emergent forms of subjectivity – the discours du jour – Leah Price looks at novels in relation to the history of the book, and to the proliferation of anthologies in particular. It is a refreshing change: most histories and theories of ‘the’ novel...

Pwaise the wabbit

Claudia Johnson, 1 August 1996

Hugh Kenner’s lively Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings belongs to the ‘Portraits of American Genius’ series launched two years ago by the University of California Press with the intention of celebrating American creativity. Books about Toni Morrison and Miles Davis will strike no one as unusual, although the volumes on Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and Mabel McKay, a native American medicine woman, were less conventional. Chuck Jones falls somewhere in between. Until he won the Oscar this year only a few self-identified cartoon fans knew his name, but everyone knows the characters in the cartoons he directed and, in some cases, created at Warner Brothers between 1938 and 1962: the dapper rabbit from Brooklyn who, when confronted by the barrel of a rifle, munches his carrot and asks with an insouciance positively sublime, ‘Eh, what’s up doc?’; the gamesome darnfool duck who, foiled in some greedy plot, lisps indignantly. ‘You’re dethpicable’; the horny, ‘scent-imental’ skunk who, oblivious to the flowers and felines drooping with asphyxia everywhere around him, coos suavely, ‘Ah, c’est l’amour, c’est toujours!’; and the resourceful but hapless coyote who – singed, smashed, flattened or otherwise hoist with his own (Acme Co.) petard – blinks dolefully while his roadrunning prey, pausing for an infuriating ‘beep-beep’, whizzes away unfazed. For the adults who watched Bugs, Daffy et al before feature films in cinemas, and the children who watched them on TV, the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes of Chuck Jones and his colleagues such as Bob Clampett and Tex Avery have become part of our cultural heritage, as familiar as the actors elsewhere on the Warner Bros lot – Cagney, Bogart, Raft – whose toughness they mirror.’

A Sad and Gory Land

Claudia Johnson, 23 February 1995

American culture has a special attachment to boys’ coming-of-age stories, and from Tom Sawyer to Summer of ’42 readily invests them with mythic import. But girls’ coming-of-age stories, as distinct from tales about courtship and marriage, find no indulgent public. How could they? Crediting stories about the pain and exhilaration of girls’ fellowship, sexual discovery or disenchantment comes close to endorsing the agenda of consciousness-raising, and that, we know, is not likely to happen. Accordingly, stories about their rough passage into adulthood stay singular, and may be forgiven, but rarely remembered or loved.

Letter

Sister-Sister

3 August 1995

‘Is she queer? – Is she prudish?’ These are not quotations from contenders in the brouhaha over Jane Austen’s sexuality. They are questions the rakish Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park asks as he wonders about the nerdiest of all heroines, Fanny Price. The erotic charm that makes other women in that novel yield one after another to Henry’s desire fails to make a dent on...

The Janeites

Alice Spawls, 8 November 2012

Claudia Johnson begins with a ghost story. One summer morning, as she sat by the leaded gothic windows of her Princeton study editing the Norton Critical Edition of Mansfield Park, she was...

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