Astrology and Austen: Written in the stars?
Can you imagine if Darcy had asked Lizzy “What’s your sign?” Eileen Quinn, a fourth-year English major at UNC with minors in comparative literature and composition, rhetoric, and digital literacy, has analyzed some of Jane Austen’s characters on her website “Astrology of Austen.” We asked the Winston-Salem native a few questions about her starry endeavor.
Why and when did you set it up?
The idea for a website fusing my love for astrology and Jane Austen has been percolating in my mind for several months. The majority of the website design took place between Thanksgiving and the end of finals week this year (2015) – it’s very new!
You did this as a final project for an Austen class at UNC. What/when was the class? What gave you the idea to focus on astrology? Was astrology something you’ve been studying for a while?
The class, “Global Jane Austen,” was taught in the fall of 2015 by Dr. Inger Brodey (highly recommended)! I initially got the idea when a classmate of mine said, in passing, “Emma Woodhouse is such a Gemini” – and I was immediately sold on the idea. Astrology is something I’ve been passionate about since early high school, and I have spent way more time than I’d care to admit over the course of the past seven years studying the art of astrological personality profiling. My friends and family can attest to this – the first question I ask when they’re talking about a new friend or love interest is when their birthday is!
How long did it take you to go through all the books and do your analyses?
Since I read all of the books during the semester, it only took me an evening (and night…and early morning) of flipping back through the novels to find quotations that I felt were appropriate descriptions of the characters I chose.
How did you narrow down the characters for each sign? What were you looking for specifically as you analyzed the books? Did you find many characters sharing the same characteristics for a particular sign; for example, were there a lot of Leos, and who were they?
The hardest part of the process – besides the repetitive page designs – was definitely assigning sun signs to the characters. Since I wanted all of the character choices on the website to be likable, I started with a list of twelve each of my favorite young women and men from Austen’s novels and worked from there. I was looking not only at how the characters were described, but also how they interacted with others. Working with such superficial astrological analyses kind of hurt my heart (nothing is ever simple in astrology, especially since Austen’s characters are all so complex), but I’m ultimately happy with my choices! As for characters who shared the same sign, I feel like there were a lot of characters that could have been Libras. Although Elinor Dashwood and Colonel Brandon ended up ruling the Libra throne, I think that the argument could also be made for Jane Bennet, Mr. Knightley and Charlotte Heywood.
Is there a character you analyzed who you couldn’t clearly “assign” a zodiac sign to?
Of course! Even the choices that seemed most obvious to me – such as Emma Woodhouse as a Gemini or Darcy as a Capricorn – were kind of iffy. Perhaps the most difficult girl I dealt with was Elizabeth Bennet (Aries? Leo?) and the most difficult guy was Mr. Knightley (Aries? Libra? Aquarius?). I’d never thought about it before, but it’s interesting that they both ultimately ended up as Aries!
When you matched a character to a sign, were they any that surprised you? Did you go in thinking Darcy was, say, a Gemini but you found his character in the end to be more in line with Capricorns?
I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by the matches so much as by the couples – who would’ve thought that Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy were (according to my astrological profiling) not the most compatible of signs? I was definitely shocked when I found that out!
What’s your sign — and do you find you share anything in common with the heroine who shares your sign?
I’m a Capricorn! I think that – like Anne [Elliot]– I can sometimes be too easily influenced by people who think they know what’s best for me. But, also like Anne, my emotions tend to run way deeper than they might appear to the outside world and I really, genuinely care about my friends and loved ones!
I love that you included a compatibility section — and that one of Lizzie Bennet’s best matches is Wickham, a Leo, or that Fanny Price, a Cancer, is best matched with Edmund Bertram, a Pisces. Were there any matches that surprised you, character-wise?
I thought it was interesting that one of the most compatible match (in my eyes), between a Taurus and a Capricorn, was realized in Persuasion, Austen’s final novel. While characters in some of her earlier novels – such as Catherine Morland (Pisces) and Henry Tilney (Aquarius) from Northanger Abbey – were not as well-matched, I noticed a general trend toward greater astrological compatibility as Austen’s works progressed and she grew as a writer. Although her characters became more complex, her couples also tended to become more suited to one another.
What sign do you think Caroline Bingley would be? Or Tom Bertram?
Oh, Caroline Bingley would DEFINITELY be a Capricorn – of the bad type! She’s cold, financially conscious and way too obsessed with social status for her own good. Tom Bertram is a little more difficult … I think the argument could be made for an Aries gone too far: he loves to be in charge and have a good time, but he gets a little carried away with it and some of his ideas seem a little childish.
Of course everyone wants it written in the stars that Darcy is their best match. Which character is your best match on the compatibility chart? Is it very fitting?
My best match, according to the chart, is Captain Wentworth. I’m not going to say that I’m totally okay with that…but I am totally okay with that! The love letter he writes Anne? Major swoon. However…I’ve always had a thing for Henry Tilney and his fabulous sense of humor; I tend to go for a quirkier kind of guy, possibly because my rising sign is Aquarius and it sits in a really influential position in my chart. That being said, I do think that Capt. Wentworth would be better for me in the long run!