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-  29   1 . Ford’s door There’s a moment in chapter 27 of Jane Austen’s Emma in which Emma withdraws briefly from Harriet’s side to go to the door of Ford’s shop to see what stretches out before her eyes: “A Mind Lively and at Ease” Imagination and Emma Chapter 1 n Emma went to the door for amusement.— Much could not be hoped from the traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury; —Mr. Perry walking hastily by, Mr. William Cox letting himself in at the office door, Mr. Cole’s carriage horses returning from exercise, or a stray letter-boy on an obstinate mule, were the liveliest objects she could hope to expect; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman traveling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker’s little bowwindow eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. (Emphasis mine, 241) Part I: Jane Austen and Self-Consciousness -  30   I pause over this moment because it is unlike any other in Emma. Nowhere else in the novel does Austen list the objects before Emma’s eyes. And it may be that nowhere else in Austen’s writing does she create such a list of things set before her heroine’s viewing and thinking consciousness. The objects listed are framed between three sentences that tell us something of why Emma seeks them with her eyes. At the top of the passage, like the top of the door’s frame itself, Austen writes: “Emma went to the door for amusement.” Emma looks out the door at the objects it frames because it holds the possibility of her delight.The first half of the list is not composed of objects she actually sees, only those she could expect to see, those from which “much could not be hoped”—the expected known of the traffic of Highbury—Mr. Perry walking, Mr. Cox at his office door, Mr. Cole’s horses, a stray letter boy on a mule. Austen’s dividing middle phrase of the framing door, “the liveliest objects she could hope to expect,” reiterates both why Emma would go to the door—to seek enlivening—and why she would be disappointed—only these objects and this level of accompanying liveliness. The bottom of the frame, “she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough to stand at the door,” tells us what she actually sees—the butcher with his tray, an old woman with her full basket, two dogs quarrelling over a bone, and children hanging about the baker’s window—unexpected though known objects—are enough for Emma, in that they draw her attention and cause her to feel amused. At the conclusion of the passage, we arrive at a sentence that at once stands back from Emma at the door and takes us inside its meaning: “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer” (emphasis mine, 241). In a scene of viewing and in a sentence that reflects back on its meaning, Austen frames the nature of Emma’s viewing consciousness, which is to say, the nature of Emma’s mind.1 The neurologist Antonio Damasio hypothesizes that for there to be consciousness, an exchange must occur between an organism and an object, the exchange that prompts change, what he calls “the feeling of knowing”— 1. For other recent perspectives on Austen’s writing the nature of Emma’s mind and imagination, see Juliet McMaster’s “Emma: The Geography of a Mind.”Without prior knowledge of each other’s work, McMaster and I have written on the nature of Emma’s mind with an uncanny similarity of attention to passage selection.Though our analysis differs, what we share is recognition of Austen’s topic. As well, for further exploration of the relation of the imagination to reason see Carroll Fry’s “‘The Hunger of the Imagination’: Discordia Concors in Emma”; and Barbara Moore’s “Imagining the Real: The Development of Moral Imagination in Emma.” Drawing on aesthetic theory and brainbased research,Wendy S. Jones in her fine “Emma, Gender, and the Mind-Brain” explores how Emma learns to see sympathetically rather than artistically. Reading Emma “neurologically,” Jones works to...


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