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Footnote-mania Takes Over Classics Publishing

If you’re like me and pick up a new edition of a classic novel, chances are you spend the bulk of your time reading the footnotes and other annotations added to the edition and don’t spend all that much time rereading the book in question. So no wonder the New York Times’ William Grimes has concocted a trend piece of out the penchant for footnotes in reissued editions of Jane Austen novels.

But what’s especially interesting is that, even if the details have changed in two centuries, the basic story themes still resonate. “The reader who does not know a farthing from a guinea, it’s safe to say, will nonetheless grasp the great drama of attraction and repulsion that plays out between Darcy and Elizabeth,” Grimes states. “The cut and thrust of their conversation is timeless. Generations of young women who do not know the first thing about an entailed estate or a quadrille will recognize in Austen’s heroine a kindred spirit, a contemporary, a valued ally in the eternal war between the sexes.” Which goes to show, the more you annotate, the more things stay the same…

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