Jane Austen changed my life

by Carl Phelpstead

phelpstead-carl-web(Prompted by our launch event, CRECS Fight Club, last Tuesday, Cardiff’s own Professor Carl Phelpstead reveals the transformative role Jane Austen played in shaping his future career.)

Jane Austen changed my life.

In the course of heaping deserved praise on my learned and witty colleagues for their knock-out performances at the CRECS Fight Club last Tuesday I found myself revealing to them that Austen is the one contender that night who has played an essential part in making me who I am. It was reading Sense and Sensibility for pleasure after I had started A-levels in Physics, Maths and German that made me realise what I was missing and led me to drop the Physics and Maths and take English Literature and Music instead. So if it weren’t for Austen I might now be a quantum physicist or astronomer …

Instead, I went on to study English at university and, eventually, to end up as a professor of the subject at Cardiff. (At a time when Cardiff Council is planning cuts to its library service it’s perhaps worth noting that the life-changing copy of Sense and Sensibility that I read was borrowed from my local public library.)

Of course, Austen cannot be held responsible for the fact that I became a specialist in medieval literature: that’s the doing of a certain Geoffrey Chaucer. But that’s a whole other story …

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