by Peter J. Leithart
Canon Press, 2004, 197 pages
Leithart begins Miniatures and Morals with a chapter titled, “Real men read Austen” and while it is far from clear that men do, Leithart does clearly establish that they should.
What does Austen have to offer male readers? First off, her male heroes are examples of good and godly masculinity – though Austen’s novels are not Christian in anything like the way that today’s “Christian fiction” is Christian, her faith is displayed in how she distinguishes good from evil. Darcy, Knightley, even Edward Ferrars are all clear Christ-figures, willing to sacrifice themselves to do what’s right. They are real men, masculine not because they are macho, but because they show servant-leadership.
Austen’s villains are equally instructive; they are men who toy with women’s affections, showing them special attention with no serious intent. They are, in more modern terminology, “players.” Because Austen allows “men the opportunity to see romance through the eyes of an uncommonly perceptive woman” we can use Austen to learn what to, and what not to do, when interacting with the fairer sex.
The six chapters that follow each tackle one of Austen’s six novels and each ends with 8 or 9 questions, making it a great resource for book clubs. And it is an absolute must for any Austen fan – I could not put it down.