One more post on Jane Austen, and I’ll have done for the summer.
The term paper is finished – 6,000 words on the P&P and S&S film adaptations (the 1995/2005 and 1995/2008 ones). My main point in it is that the newer movies are as much influenced by the older ones as by the books, and it’s really clearly seen in the characters of Mr Darcy, Margaret, Edward and Colonel Brandon. Film adaptations are a form of reader-response criticism – well, at least that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
So after three months of full Austen immersion, I still don’t hate her (which is not a given; I can get tired very easily of subjects, especially if I have to do work on them). In fact, I’m more of a Janeite than ever, and now I’ve got the education to back me up. Educated fanatics are the worst kind; look out, world.
I think I could do a whole other course on Austen. I could have things to say about the adaptations of Mansfield, Northanger, Persuasion, and Emma. And I’d like to look at how, or if, Austen created the “romance” genre as we know it today (the storyline of proud rich man/feisty prejudiced girl has been repeated over and over in thousands of Harlequin novels and rom-coms). What did Austen mean when she said “I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem”? (That’s from a letter to the Prince Regent’s librarian, Sir James Stanier Clarke, who wanted her to write a “Historical Romance illustrative of the History of the august house of Cobourg” – heroic propaganda, in other words. Had that guy even read what Austen usually produced?) Obviously, the term “romance” meant something different then – but what? So I wouldn’t mind exploring Austen’s place vis-a-vis 19th-century Romanticism – is she, or is she not, part of that movement? I think not, but then I don’t know enough about Romanticism (yet). And how do we get from Romanticism to today’s red-hearts-and-Valentines “romance”? The last is where it veers off from Austen a bit – but regardless, suffice to say there’s still so much to think on and study, I could be busy with this for a long time yet. No wonder people get whole PhD’s studying Austen.
And speaking of people who haven’t actually read Austen: apparently the Brits are going to put her on the £10 note, starting in 2017. The accompanying quote, as this article in the Guardian points out, is one that’s a bit of a blunder: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” That’s said by Miss Bingley, for the sheer purpose of sucking up to Mr Darcy. Major irony on Austen’s part. It’s like a fridge magnet I have: it came with a box of herbal tea, and has an oh-so-cute teddy bear in a rocking chair on it sipping from a steaming mug, and bears the inscription: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort! Jane Austen”. In that case, the quote comes from Emma, and is said by Mrs Elton being her usual annoying self – she really doesn’t mean what she’s saying any more than Miss Bingley does in the £10 quote. But then, I suppose, using as certified Austen quotes some lines that are examples of her incredible gift for irony is, in a strange way, quite apt. Those of us in the know can enjoy our quiet chuckle, and appreciate how definitive of the great Jane Austen those words are, after all.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that – this line is one of the most over-quoted in English literature. So I think I will sign off for now. Thanks for reading my effusions! I’ll be back in the fall with Children’s Literature and Fairytales.