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Jane Austen News – Issue 96

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 


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?


 A Purely Female Pride and Prejudice Performance

One for our Scottish Jane Austen fans! The Tron Theatre in Glasgow has announced its 2018 spring/summer programme, and one of the productions in the pipeline is an all-female Pride and Prejudice. Or as they have titled it, Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of).

At the Jane Austen News we’re quite curious about it, as not much is known at the moment. We know it will be a comedy (with that kind of title how could it not be!), and we know it will run from the 28th of June until July the 14th.

The premise sounds very promising though:

Late into the night, an anonymous young writer fights to finish a novel – one that will become famous the world over. But first she must decide: How important is a happy ending? Is there one true love waiting for all of us? And will they be charming and handsome – or wetter than Colin Firth fresh from a Derbyshire lake?

Join Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young for a unique take on the definitive rom-com, Pride & Prejudice. Men and money will be fought over in this irreverent, all-female adaptation of the unrivalled literary classic. It’s party time! And the ruthless match-making has already begun.


  I Hate Jane Austen?!? Never!

A large number of visitors who come to Bath are inspired, at least to some degree, to fall in love with the world of the Regency and the Georgian era once more. It’s hard not to with such amazing architectural tributes to the past everywhere you look. Also, the city has a rich Georgian history. Many famous Georgian figures came to Bath, and Bath still channels their spirit to this day.

Jane Austen, and her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in particular, are firmly entrenched within the foundations of Bath. So Bath is naturally a good place to bring someone you’d like to imbue with a love of Austen. We certainly hope this is the case with outspoken columnist and restaurant critic Giles Coren. He visited Bath to film a new documentary entitled “I Hate Jane Austen”.

The documentary, which was filmed partly in Bath, see Giles setting out to discover why there’s so much enduring love for Austen. He is not a fan himself, but as it’s the bicentenary of her death and Austen is in the public eye (and now in the public wallet on the new £10 note), Giles has decided to see if his mind can be changed.

To help him see why Austen is so loved he tries dressing up in Austen-era finery and going to a ball, as well as recruiting some of the UK’s great novelists, academics and celebrities, including Joanna Trollop, Tracey Chevalier and David Baddiel, to convince him of her worth.

A spokesperson from Brighton-based Factory Films, who produced the film said: “This jovial, funny and insightful documentary will attempt to take Giles from staunch un-believer to fully-fledged convert.”

I Hate Jane Austen, has been made as part of the Sky Arts’ Passions series and will be aired on Sky Arts on Tuesday, December 12 at 9pm.We certainly hope he is converted by the end! Who couldn’t love Jane once they got to know her?!

 


 A Closer Look at Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin is arguably Britain’s most eminent literary biographer. In the past she has written biographies on Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, and, of course Jane Austen. Her biographies are some of the most popular and well-respected biographies of the modern age. Her new project is a bit different though. An established name in the biography circuit, Tomalin has turned from biographies to an autobiography.

A Life of My Own is an intimate and absorbing memoir filled with triumphs and tragedies. She relives her turbulent childhood and recreates her refuge at university; she guides us through an up-and-down marriage and a dynamic Fleet Street career before arriving at, and reflecting on, her true vocation as biographer.

Not only are we looking forward to finding out more about the biographer herself, but also potentially reading more about how she went about bringing new life to the life of Jane Austen as, in an interview about her upcoming autobiography, she explained a little of what her plan was when it came to documenting Austen’s life.

She said she was “treading on ground that is both sacred and extremely well trodden”, and that she “didn’t think I had to offer a new perspective at all. I’d been reading Austen all my life, I’d read the biographies, and I just thought: I’m going to start again.”

This method gave her new insights and the chance to dispel old myths.

People like [previous Austen biographer] Lord David Cecil had tried to present Austen as though her family were part of the aristocratic society, or gentry. But looking at who her Hampshire neighbours actually were, which I think nobody had done, and then looking at the fact that her mother and father couldn’t afford to bring up their children so they had to run an all-boys boarding school, and that they didn’t live in a house they owned so when her father left they were homeless – it seemed to me that there was so much there. Of course they went to balls where they met people from higher classes, but basically they had a tough time.

No matter who the subject is (though Jane’s biography was naturally our favourite at the Jane Austen News), Tomalin’s biographies are a joy to read so we look forward to her new book. Tomalin’s full interview can be found here.


Badder Than Taylor Swift

And finally, a rhetorical tweet asking people to “Name a b*tch badder than Taylor Swift” took an unexpected turn this week when it went viral and garnered over 9000 replies.

There were lots of nominations of amazing women within the replies. A few of these included the likes of Queen Boadicea, Virginia Woolf, female activists, family members, and in one case a French aristocratic pirate!

However, Jane Austen was also quickly put forward as “badder” than Taylor Swift; and what was a tweet praising Miss Swift soon became a thread discussing the wonders of Austen….

 

 

We loved this turn of events, and we weren’t the only ones!


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

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4 thoughts on “Jane Austen News – Issue 96

  1. Is there a reason why we should care about Mr Coren’s opinion? Isn’t he a restaurant critic?

    1. Well I can’t think of a reason why! I certainly don’t care what he thinks.

  2. I do pity any purist who is opposed to Jane Austen spinoffs and JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction literature) because they can rail against it, write thoughtful think pieces about it, write turgid academic prose condemning it, and accomplish exactly nothing! JAFF has legions of fans who will not give a hoot about the opinions of these bien pensants.

    1. Extremely well put and ‘spot on’!

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