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Jane Austen News – Issue 97

A Mr Bennet Interview is the Jane Austen News this week!

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Meet Mr Bennet

Our Mr Bennet, who is almost synonymous with the Jane Austen Centre as he stands at the Centre entrance in all A Mr Bennet interview is the Jane Austen News this week!weathers to greet our visitors with warmth and charm, has been featured in the Bath Chronicle this week.

His article is the first of the Chronicle’s new series ‘Meet the’…, which will be taking a closer look at the personalities who make Bath such an incredible place.

“He’s a great addition to the Jane Austen Centre, everyone knows him and greets him and he knows every street, square and alleyway in Bath.

His local knowledge is unparalleled, he sees everything from his perch on the steps outside the Jane Austen Centre, he even reports misdeeds and fights to the police or council, he misses nothing.”

Some things you might already know about Mr Bennet:

He makes his own period clothes having worked for a gentleman’s outfitter and costume hire company.

“I bought myself a little sewing machine and I do all the research as to what men would have worn during Jane Austen’s time.”

…others might be more surprising…

When Martin’s not working he’s a rock ‘n roll fan and dresses as a Teddy Boy or Elvis and goes to gigs.

He also loves motorbikes and dresses head to toe in leather when out on his beloved Honda 750.

You can read the full interview with our Mr Bennet here.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 96

The Jane Austen News hopes Giles is converted!

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To Lop and Crop or Leave Alone?

There has long been a debate around whether the books Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters are a bit of fun or an absolute travesty.

Jane Austen spin-offs are subjected to huge amounts of criticism, both good and bad. Usually these debates as to their merits, or lack of, take place online or in the media. However, now the universities are getting involved and there’s even been an academic essay written on the subject, analysing whether the “lopping and cropping” of Austen is a good or a bad thing.

Sydney Miller, a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Los Angeles, has published her essay titled “How Not to Improve the Estate: Lopping & Cropping Jane Austen”. The abstract reads thus:

This essay reads Quirk Classics’ monstrous mash-ups, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, asdeliberately excessive and unnatural alterations that speak to a preoccupation with improvement that is both thematized within Austen’s own work and symptomatic of Austenmania’s broader project of renovating the literary landscape that is Jane Austen’s estate. While the mash-up enterprise is, no doubt, an exercise in making Austen’s novels worse, the essay frames the Quirk travesties in terms of Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” asking whether it is possible that these imprudent “improvements” might actually be good because they are bad. Insofar as the enhanced editions make manifest the Camp sensibility that has long been latent in Austen’s prose, they tease promising critical insight; however, the increasingly derivative mash-ups ultimately fail in their campiness precisely where Austen succeeds: for hers remains a secret of style.

What do you think? Are spin-offs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a good or a bad thing? A good way to get more readers introduced to Austen who might not otherwise try reading her (i.e. read the spin-off and then read the original)? Or are they a destruction of good literature?

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Jane Austen News – Issue 95

the Jane Austen News feels Christmas is coming

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Austen HEAVILY Abridged

One of our favourite finds at the Jane Austen News this week has to be the work of the late Australian comedian, John Clarke.

In his posthumously published book, Tinkering: The Complete Book of John Clarke, which was published in Australia on Monday, he has taken a wealth of literary classics and condensed them down to their most-brief forms. This is abridgment for the reader who really does have no time at all. Or, the reader who has read, or is at least familiar with, the novels he has abridged, and can appreciate the farcical nature of his “short” versions.

These are some of his abridged Austens:

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet (mother obsessed with marrying daughters off, father amusing but not very helpful) dislikes Mr Darcy because he is too proud. She becomes prejudiced against him and even likes one man (Wickham) because he speaks ill of Darcy.

Her life is occupied with sisters Jane, who is calm and loves Bingham, and Lydia, who loves soldiers (Wickham) and who brings family into disrepute (Wickham). Elizabeth inadvertently discovers that Darcy is unbelievably rich. They marry immediately. Mother knew best.

Persuasion

Featuring Anne Elliot (plain, educated, sensitive, wise, family down on luck). Father and spoilt sister go to Bath for society, Anne to another sister (selfish, stupid, married to cheerful farmer). Children get sick, Anne tower of strength. Visited by Captain Wentworth. (Naval man at time of Trafalgar = national hero.) Wentworth and Anne have met before, have loved, and Anne has rejected Wentworth’s proposal of marriage but heart not still. Farmer’s sister falls off seawall and Wentworth realises he’s an idiot about Anne. Hooray!

Emma

Beautiful daughter of silly old fool has nothing better to do than manipulate and matchmake in snobbish rural society. Behaves very stupidly and messes up life of Harriet Smith, a harmless woman who should obviously marry local farmer. Eventually marries best friend Mr Knightley, the resonance of whose name she had previously failed to notice. (See Clueless.)

They’re obviously not a substitute for reading the novels themselves, but they’re a bit of fun, and perhaps a good way to remind yourself of the books you’ve read. (“I’m sure I’ve read it…I just can’t remember what it was all about…”)

A few more examples of John Clarke’s work, including 1984 and Moby Dick, can be found here.

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Two Austen fans podcasting to tell the story of Georgette Heyer today

Heyer Today recording

By Sara-Mae Tuson

Exactly one year ago this week my friend Beth and I were having tea and cake in the Victoria and Albert Museum, when I asked her if she fancied joining me in setting up a boutique podcast company. So ‘Fable Gazers’ was born – a podcast company which aims to produce narrative podcasts with our own special twist.

With literary-themed podcasts in their infancy, there’s still room for new voices. Our ambitions are vast: we want to produce the next podcast obsession. With audio content (according to Oliver Deane, Director of Commercial Digital at DAX)  set to make up 30% of advertising revenue it looked like a promising proposition. But it wasn’t the prospect of making money that inspired us to create Fable Gazers. It was two passion projects, one started by a friend’s shocking revelation to me, and the other created because of a need to find a podcast about two of my favourite writers.

I thought it might be possible to keep creating beautiful audio stories, not as a one-off, but as a proper company. With books being a passion of mine, particularly those of a certain famous author who died far too young, after shaping my young mind with such classics as Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and more, I wanted to do something that covered an area of Austen’s world which hasn’t been done to death – and it hit me, what about the intersection between her work and the Regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer?

So, I began work on Heyer Today. Like The West Wing Weekly, in which Hrishikesh Hirway and Josh Malina discuss every episode of The West Wing with celebrity guests, our second season, Heyer Today, will have us discussing fourteen of Georgette Heyer’s books with someone who has never read one, attempting to ‘convert’ them to her work, as well as comparing them to Austen’s six classic novels as we go along. For many of us who adore Jane Austen’s work, Heyer is the closest thing we can find to our favourite literary heroine.

There were several revelations for me in the course of researching Heyer Today, and I’ve come to admire her even more than I did before beginning the process. For instance, she wrote almost two books a year throughout her career, supported her family with her work, and has never been out of print!

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An Interview with Author Rachel Knowles

What regency Women Did For UsNot all Regency women were alike… Author and Regency history blogger Rachel Knowles came to visit us at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath recently, and she was kind enough to tell us a little more about her latest book, What Regency Women Did For Us, and about some of the amazing women of the Regency. Over the next few weeks we’ll be uploading Rachel Knowles’ interview about Jane Austen, blogging and Regency women in regular episodes and then posting them all here. Enjoy! Part One Rachel Knowles introduces herself and explains how why the Regency appealed to her and is still relevant today: (more…)
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Jane Austen News – Issue 94

teach austen via a game

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How To Teach Austen

The New York Times has just published an article looking at how to teach students about Austen in the modern era. They asked for teachers to comment on how they teach Austen to their own classes, but they also published a great list of their own suggestions.

Study the word choices

“Have students read ‘The Word Choices That Explain Why Jane Austen Endures,’ and study the graphic (featured below). Then, invite them to take whatever Austen novel they are reading, choose a passage, and highlight words and phrases that illustrate the findings, just as the author does in the piece with lines from “Emma” and “Persuasion.”

How do “these distinctive words, word clusters and grammatical constructions highlight her writerly preoccupations: states of mind and feeling, her characters’ unceasing efforts to understand themselves and other people”? How do they show her “acute emotional intelligence”?”

Ask the students to draw parallels

What connections can students make between any of the Austen novels and their own lives?

What are the rules, written and unwritten, that govern courtship, love and marriage in Jane Austen?

What are the rules, written and unwritten, that govern courtship, love and marriage today?

Study the adaptations

Always a popular option. Have students choose an Austen update to compare and contrast with the original, and write essays in which they decide how well it has recast the original’s ideas, characters, themes, plot, setting, tone and language. Or, invite them to create their own adaptations.

There are far more suggestions in the article on how to teach Austen than we have space to list here, but if you’d like to read them all you can find the full article here. Or you might prefer to try their other idea…

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Finding Happiness, Austen Style, with Emma, our favourite matchmaker

Finding happiness with EmmaWelcome to the fourth of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style. This time, with Emma. Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels. Does the following sound familiar to you? You’ve found the perfect certain someone for your friend, neighbour, colleague, or other unsuspecting acquaintance. There’s just one small problem: Said friend has told you that no way, no how is he/she interested in that perfect certain someone. And yet, you know better–just as you always do. Just as Emma, the eponymous heroine of Austen’s novel, always did. Hold on a minute. Did Jane Austen write two versions of Emma? Or could it be that you, like Emma, are turning into the queen of know-it-all? Heaven forbid. After all, look what happened to Emma. She very nearly totally screwed up her life. But never fear. We’ve got a little game for you to play. It’s called “Emma, Reformed Matchmaker.” All you need to do is follow the rules: 1. You’ll need to play with a single friend (preferably a single friend who would like to be in a couple. Otherwise, we might need to come up with another game entitled, “Emma Reformed Bulldozer”). 2. Each of you sits down and writes a list of qualities that your friend’s perfect, future mate should possess. 3. Do not reveal what is on your lists until both of you are finished writing. 4. Now share. You (more…)
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Jane Austen News – Issue 93

The Jane Austen News looks at economics!

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Economics Needs Austen

Gary Saul Morson, the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University, and Morton Schapiro, a professor of economics and the president of Northwestern University have put forward an interesting question: could reading Tolstoy and Austen improve economic forecasting?

In their book, Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities, they argue that, while taking literature seriously will not completely transform the field of economics it will provide a real boost to accuracy and general understanding of why seemingly unlikely events are more likely than first assumed (recessions being a prime example). They believe that learning from literature, philosophy and the other humanities, along with history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, religion and the like, may lead economists to develop more realistic models of human behavior, increase the accuracy of their predictions, and come up with policies that are more effective and more just.

They particularly recommend reading some of the classic literary greats:

There is no better source of ethical insight than the novels of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Henry James, and the other great realists. Their stories distill the complexity of ethical questions that are too important to be entrusted to an overarching theory – questions that call for good judgment.

We wonder what Jane would make of this!

An essay going into more depth on the importance of literature and the humanities in economics can be read here.

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Our December 18th offer: 20% off our bestselling Teacup and saucer Cupcake Cases normally £12.99 – TODAY ONLY £10.39 just enter the code CAKESAVE in the coupon code field under your basket items Remember to check back tomorrow for another great offer! (more…)