What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
2017 Is The Year Of Literature
Next year is a milestone for quite a few heroes of British literature, and to celebrate VisitEngland has declared it the ‘Year of Literary Heroes’. Among the anniversaries being celebrated are the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and publication anniversaries for Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Enid Blyton. 2017 will be mark the 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, and it will be twenty years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!
As well events surrounding these, there will also be special programmes of events to celebrate the wartime poet Edward Thomas in Petersfield, Hampshire, an exhibition on writer Arnold Bennett, and a festival dedicated to children’s author Arthur Ransome – the writer of Swallows and Amazons.
So it seems 2017 is the year to visit England if you’re a fan of literature. Of course there will be plenty of special events on across the country to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death, and we’ll keep you up to date with what’s set to be going on.
A Christmas Dinner at Chawton Library
Best-selling author Edward Rutherfurd (his debut novel Sarum, a 10,000-year story set in Salisbury, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 23 weeks) will add star appeal to the Christmas supper at Chawton House Library next month.
Offering an opportunity to partake of a festive meal in the atmospheric oak-panelled rooms where Jane dined with her family, the black tie event on December 3 will include the viewing of a unique manuscript and rare books. Edward Rutherfurd will talk about the inspiration that characterful 400-year-old houses like Chawton House can provide to the creative imagination, and guests at the Christmas supper will have the opportunity to view the unique ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ manuscript, written in Jane Austen’s own hand, as well as seeing a selection of her first editions.
Proceeds from the tickets (£85 per ticket or £750 for a table of ten) will go towards the library, its maintenance, and the academic work it undertakes.
Introducing Jane Austen to New Audiences (via Zombies)
It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has to be said that Seth Graham Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a hit with some readers, and it may have one big distinct benefit; it introduces people to Jane Austen’s work who probably wouldn’t have found her otherwise.
During the course of our Internet perusals this week, we came across a blog by Rebecca Thorne who explained perfectly what drew her to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and from there, onto original Jane Austen novels.
What interested me in the idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is that I’m quite in to fantasy so zombie killing sounded like fun. Additionally, I do love a strong female lead, so the Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a professional zombie slayer with a fearsome reputation was right up my ally. As I also quite like historical fiction, the historical setting iced the cake.
Personally, I think it’s a great idea to experiment with stories and secondly adapting older works may inspire audiences who wouldn’t normally be interesting in them to try them.
It may not be everyone’s thing, but if it leads people to Jane’s work, then surely that’s a positive?
Constable in Brighton
A new exhibition which might be of interest to fellow fans of the Regency period will be running at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery between 8th April and 8th October 2017. It will explore John Constable’s time in the emerging seaside resort of Brighton, where he stayed with his family between 1824 and 1828.
A bit of background: John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter known principally for his landscape paintings. Qualities associated with his work include a freshness of light and a delicacy of touch; he also saw landscape painting as a scientific as well as a poetic form, and believed the imagination cannot alone produce art comparable with nature. His paintings are so treasured that they hang in galleries such as the British Museum, the Courtauld Gallery, the National Gallery, the Royal Academy, Tate, V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Constable in Brighton will form part of the Royal Pavilion & Museums’ Regency Summer season in 2017, which will also include Jane Austen by the Sea at the Royal Pavilion and Visions of the Royal Pavilion Estate at Brighton Museum.
Jane Austen The Secret Radical – A Review
“Almost everything we think we know about Jane Austen is wrong.” This is the declaration from Helena Kelly, author of Jane Austen, The Secret Radical, an eminently accessible study of Jane Austen’s six major novels.
At the Jane Austen News we’re very excited because Helena will be visiting Bath this week and signing copies of her book for us. They’re available for pre-order here, and will be shipped out next week!
In Jane Austen, The Secret Radical, which is her début book, Helena argues that we’ve started to read the Jane Austen we’ve constructed through adaptations and shared wisdom, rather than Jane as she was. After 200 years she says we have strayed too far from the novels themselves, and Helena herself has been a victim of this: “When I was teaching Austen [she has taught students at Oxford University for the past ten years] I often had to go back to the text to check that what I was remembering was actually there. And I would get students writing essays on scenes that didn’t actually happen in the novels but which they remembered from somewhere else.”
Helena also puts forward the idea that Jane Austen would have expected her readers to pick up on contemporary references to politics, societal values, world events and religion. Going back and looking again at Austen’s novels with all of these things in mind will, explains Helena, reveal a writer who was spirited, opinionated and deeply concerned with the political and social issues of the times in which she lived.
Mrs Dashwood Visits the North Pole!
The new Christmas adverts have started to appear on TV, and when we at the Jane Austen News watched the new M&S Christmas advert we couldn’t help but think we’d seen Mrs Claus somewhere before. It turns out we had. The actress who plays her is Janet McTeer who played Mrs Dashwood in the BBC’s 2008 production of Sense and Sensibility. So we though we’d share that fact with you in case, like us, you were wracking your brains trying to work out why you recognised her.
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