“If you put Jane Austen‘s name in any programme name, it will be commissioned,” said Giles Coren on Radio 4’s Today programme when he went on the show to promote his new documentary I Hate Jane Austen (which aired on Sky Arts last week).
At the Jane Austen News we were unimpressed by his attacks on Jane, but happily David Baddiel – comedian, novelist, TV presenter and Austen fan – was there to defend her name. He did it so well that we thought we’d share his ripostes with you.
He did begin by reminding the listeners of the Today programme about Coren’s own, less than successful, writing career (he wrote a book called Winkler, which sold less than 800 copies when released in 2005 and picked up a gong at the Bad Sex Awards), but then he went on to champion the work of Jane.
She single-handedly created the modern English novel. Before her, novels were mad gothic fantasies. With Austen you get ironic narration, you get controlled point of view, you get transparency of focus. It’s the technique, it’s the style. Jane Austen in Emma has the first example in modern literature of a change of point of view.
All excellent points. Hurrah for Mr Baddiel!
Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, authors of the book A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, have dubbed Jane Austen a role model for the #MeToo movement.
We’re sure you’ve come across it in the news, but just in case you haven’t, #MeToo is the hashtag sweeping the Internet in a bid to raise awareness of just how widespread sexual harassment is. The hashtag also became shorthand for the many people — both women and men — going public with accusations of sexual misconduct against a string of prominent men in industries ranging from media and entertainment to politics and finance.
The reason why Emily and Emma have called Austen a role model for the #MeToo generation is because she championed the work and rights of women. Austen’s care of one woman in particular stood out for Emily and Emma: that of Anne Sharp – an amateur playwright who’d worked as one of the family’s governesses.
When Sharp confided in Austen about the trials she had endured over the course of her working life (in one home, she had suffered the advances of a man who held power over her, that being a common problem for governesses), Austen did all she could to help Anne. This included looking for alternative employment for her, and inviting her to stay with her to get Anne out of harm’s way. Crucially Austen accepted without question Anne’s allegations of sexual harassment.
There are of course, far more reasons why Austen is a role model for the #MeToo movement. She wrote at a time when getting published, for a woman, was a tough battle with stigma attached to it. She supported fellow female writers in their efforts, Anne Sharp being one, Maria Edgeworth another, as well as her nieces. Above all, Austen created strong female characters who overcame the trials society exposed them too and made their own decisions on life and marriage, despite the objections of those around them. She is an excellent role model for sure!
The budget airline ‘Norwegian’ has chosen to honour Jane Austen by unveiling unveiled Jane as its newest ‘Tail Fin Hero’. Her name and image will decorate the tail of the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in summer 2018.
Previous ‘Tail Fin Heroes’ for the airline have been the football legend Bobby Moore, Queen’s Freddie Mercury, author Roald Dahl, pilot Amy Johnson and aviatior Sir Freddie Laker.
Norwegian says it chooses personalities “who symbolise the spirit of Norwegian by pushing boundaries, challenging the norm and inspiring others”.
As Norwegian continues its rapid expansion in the UK, our ‘tail fin heroes’ offer us a perfect chance to pay tribute to some of the greatest Britons of all time. Jane Austen has inspired generations and as the world celebrates her bicentenary it is a huge honour to have one of the greatest authors of all time adorn our aircraft.
Thomas Ramdahl, Norwegian’s Chief Commercial Officer
Last week a library on Prince Edward Island held an event which we at the Jane Austen News dearly wish we could have gone to – an Austen-themed escape room challenge! (Escape rooms – an entertainment in which a group of people are locked in a room and must decipher a series of clues in order to break free.)
Library staff at Montague Rotary Library came up with the puzzles and clues from Austen’s novels, which participants at the free event would have to solve… without using the Internet to solve the riddles. It was part of the library’s programme of special one-off events which Grace Dawson, librarian at the Montague Rotary Library, hopes will inspire people to read more often.
Seeing people excited about reading is something that we’re always striving for, so it’s always nice to see that in our spaces. We want to offer programming that the public is interested in […] We’re always trying to offer different types of programming that’s really going to be valuable and meaningful, and fun of course.
The library has previously had escape rooms for young teens based on Dr. Seuss books, and another that asked children to crack a code.
What an excellent idea! We’d love to try an Austen-themed escape room!
Hundreds of books which had been collected and owned by the famous author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, recently went up for auction at Dominic Winter Auctions in Cirencester. All together the collection, which was made up of around 1,500 books that had been split into 134 lots, sold for more than £250,000!
Among the lots was a complete set of Austen first editions. A rare gem indeed, and especially sought-after given the added literary connection of Richard Adams. The set was bought by an anonymous private buyer from southern England, and was sold for £78,870!
Auctioneer Nathan Winter called the sale “incredible”, and said that some of the books had fetched such high prices due to them being “antiquarian rarities”.
Richard Adams, when he came into proceeds from his own books, had the means to buy rare titles and became quite a bibliophile. They always were, and are still, rare. Also, with the added association with his own ownership, of a famous writer, something intangible but important is added to the value, and that is reflected in the prices we got.
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