This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

UCLA author's Jane Austen theory makes Chelsea Clinton's Twitter feed

|
Jane AustenA UCLA professor’s recently published book on Jane Austen’s writings has sparked a national conversation in some of America’s greatest publications around the central premise: Was Austen ahead of her time as a romance strategist?
 
Michael Suk-Young Chwe, an associate professor of political science, proposes in "Jane Austen, Game Theorist," that the 19th century novelist applied textbook strategic thinking 150 years before game theory found applications in mathematics and the Cold War military.
 
"Anyone interested in human behavior should read Austen because her research program has results," Chwe writes in the book, published this week by Princeton University Press.

A New York Times interview rose to the 4th-most emailed spot on Tuesday, aided no doubt by tweets from Chelsea Clinton and novelist Ruth Ozeki. "Can't wait to read Michael Chwe's book on Austen & game theory, two of my favorite topics (nerdy, I know)," Clinton posted to Twitter.

One Slate blogger sounded skeptical in her response to the book (without having read it, admittedly), arguing that Austen's works stand on their own. One commenter on the website offered another thought: "Honey Boo Boo routinely challenges core principles of string theory."

The story also received a mention on the New Yorker website and a segment in the BBC World Service podcast (43rd minute.)
 
Scientific American's website today published a mock letter directed to Chwe, written as a first-person response from Austen: "Sir, you flatter me...".
 
It is with a mix of delight, embarrassment and confusion that I have watched people analyze and adapt my novels all these years....In naming me a game theorist, dear Sir, you bestow upon me more honor than I deserve. It is astonishing to me that, although I had no knowledge of game theory when I was writing my novels—and even though the field did not exist at the time—I “systematically explored the core ideas of game theory” in my work, as you confidently put it. Some people may pounce upon such an assertion as anachronistic, but you convincingly argue that my novels are forerunners of a 20th-century academic discipline.
 
The letter ends:

I am exceedingly and selfishly glad that readers who can match your cleverness are rare in number, otherwise I fear people would spend more time reading books about my books than reading my novels themselves.

Chwe has been busy trying to respond to as many comments as possible.

"Someone told me that to market a book these days, you have to think like a 20-year-old," he said. "That's when I started doing Twitter. But it's a lot of work—being a 20-year-old these days is exhausting! I don't know how people do it!"
 
 
 
 
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.
Media Contact