“I marvel, though, at Heydt-Stevenson’s boldness in speaking of Austen’s ‘meanings.’ If we are forbidden [in this post-modern age] to say that an author ‘means,’ even if she [the author] protests that she really means it, can we use dictionaries [of bawdy Georgian slang] and theoretical apparatus to infer a meaning, and then impute it back to the author as a conscious insertion? Just asking.”
-- Peter Knox-Shaw, book review of Unbecoming Conjunctions
Heydt-Stevenson's upside-down interpretation of Austen means, for example, that Mr. Woodhouse is not a gently selfish invalid, but a pervert who wants to remember the words to a disgusting riddle so he can recite it to his virginal daughter and her virginal friend. Heydt Stevenson theorizes: “Mr. Woodhouse might have been a libertine in his youth and now suffers from tertiary syphilis."
Heydt-Stevenson’s evidence for this is Mr. Woodhouse's poor health and his fondness for a nice warm fire and some thin gruel. She overlooks anything he says, or anything people say about him, that doesn't fit her thesis...