Jane Austen’s Ivory Cage

When I was working on my doctorate at Oxford, I lived in a large Victorian house with about 10 other students. My room was on the ground floor at the back; in the room above me lived a Canadian woman named Lenore—after the “rare and radiant maiden” in Poe’s “The Raven,” she once told me, though her mail was addressed to Margaret. She wore square, black-framed glasses, lots of lipstick, and old-fashioned lace-up boots. Though she was straight, she had what was generally considered to be a lesbian haircut (shorn at the sides and thick on top), and she was also impressively tech-savvy. One evening, she announced that she was going to the computer room to “log on,” a phrase literature students didn’t often utter in 1992.