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September 21, 2017

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Sharing the joys of reading with youth

I can imagine asking my students this question: Whom do you like the best, singer Kelly Clarkson, or 19th century British author Jane Austen?

Well, no. Actually, I cannot imagine asking my students that question. The answer would be too predictable.

How can someone who deals with college students on a daily basis, and who teaches literature to boot, imagine that a writer who passed away 196 years ago could be more popular than a current pop singer? But, listen to this.

A spokesperson for the Jane Austen House Museum says that Austen fans are pledging donations in a feisty drive to prevent a ring the British author willed to her sister from being bought by Kelly Clarkson. The American singer, who admires Austen and owns a first edition of her masterpiece "Persuasion," reportedly bought the ring at a Sotheby auction last year for some US$225,000 (CP 8 - 15 - 13, p. 8). She does not yet have the ring in her possession. At the moment, the British government is exercising its legal power to delay the export of an object it considers a national treasure. In the meantime, the Austen Museum is scurrying to match the figure Ms. Clarkson put up for the ring. Clarkson has agreed to sell it, allowing the ring to stay in the Austen House Museum, if the dollars and cents add up.

Now we could argue until the cows come home about Ms. Clarkson's values. Should an admirer of an author deny other literary fans the opportunity to gaze upon a special piece of jewelry ensconced in a glass case in a far away land, but the land of that writer's birth? From a different viewpoint, what are we to think of someone spending over US$200,000 for a ring, and a ring, we suspect, that she would rarely, if ever, even wear? For the same amount of money, you could pay basic tuition expenses for four years for 17 students at my university.

Allow me, please, to momentarily change focus.

I am in the midst of a transition. After 27 years as a full time instructor on my campus, I am now a part-timer. On the first day of this month, in a sense, I retired.

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