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Jane Austen News – Issue 125

The Jane Austen News' collection of writers

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Austen Exception to the Rule?

In new research, Cornell University psychologists found that study participants were more than twice as likely on average to call male professionals – even fictional ones – by their last name only, compared to equivalent female professionals. This example of gender bias, the researchers said, may be contributing to gender inequality.

The Jane Austen News' collection of writersThe eight studies, which included male and female participants, showed the difference which came from the first name distinction. When men were referred to by only their surname that were perceived as more famous and more important than the women who were referred to by their first and last names. Researchers say that the implications for political campaigns could be important as “it’s possible that referring to a candidate by their full name instead of just their surname could have implications for fame and eminence.”

It’s true that we usually say “Shakespeare” but “Virginia Woolf”, and “Hardy” but “Mary Shelley”, however, we like to think that Austen might be the exception to the two-name rule. Jane Austen is certainly the only really famous Austen who we think of when we hear the name Austen!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 119

Jane Austen is at number 24

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


If At First You Don’t Enjoy… Give Up?

The UK charity The Reading Agency recently commissioned a poll to discover the nation’s reading habits, as one way of marking World Book Night which took place on Monday April 23rd. One of the things which the poll found out was that more than a fifth of British readers refuse to give up on a book, no matter how much they are struggling, while some will wait weeks or months before calling time on the unsatisfying book. In school the general message was to read on and get to the end of the book, but The Reading Agency is going against the trend and advising readers to give up on books they do not enjoy.

The poll, of 2,000 people, found that 15% would give up if struggling with a book after 1-3 weeks, 11% saying they’d stop after 4-6 days of struggles, 13%  after 2-3 days, and 6% would stop the day after. On the other hand, 22% thought that readers should always finish books they’ve started.

However, Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said that;

At a time when one in five of us will experience anxiety or depression, and world events can leave people feeling confused or scared, reading has never been more important.

At a time when so many brilliant books are being written and published, you should never force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. World Book Night is the chance to find a book that works for you.

***

The Top Five Unfinished Books

1. Fifty Shades Of Grey by EL James
2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring by JRR Tolkien
3. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by JK Rowling
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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Jane Austen News – Issue 103

Jane in Jane Austen the Musical

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

 


Jane In The West End

Some of our readers might remember that the UK was treated to a touring, musical-adaptation of Persuasion last year. Well now, rather than one of her novels, Jane’s life has been adapted into a musical.

Jane Austen the Musical is receiving great reviews as it continues its UK tour, which runs until March this year.

The tour began in October last year and has visited the likes of York, Norwich, and Birmingham. It is currently playing in London and, as London is a theatre hub, the theatre critics have been going to see the show and making their verdicts.

Rob Winlow has fashioned a diverting, grown-up, pleasant (but not without its bite) chamber musical that captures some of the dilemmas faced by the quiet girl who scribbled immortal novels in a Hampshire rectory.

Rob Winlow’s songs are pleasing, especially when the cast sing in harmony, with more than a hint of Gilbert & Sullivan in the patter numbers.

The audience amongst whom I sat were mostly women, though (as both the male director and male writer prove) Austen’s work is universal in its appeal, as all great art must be. See it if you’re a fan and, if you’re not, see it anyway

The highlight of the production is Edith Kirkwood’s assured performance as Jane. She has a charming voice and vivacious presence. Jenni Lea-Jones is enjoyable as Mrs Austen and Thomas Hewitt and Adam Grayson provide game support as the suitors and Rev Austen.

Of course it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and some critics have said that it is too flimsy (“frustratingly thin portrait of an author”), but we thought that if you like musicals and you like Jane, this is a production you might like to know about.

Tour dates for the show are available here.

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Meeting the Pride & Prejudice Cast

  Today was the day that every girl dreams of… meeting Mr Darcy.  Matthew Macfadyen set the bar pretty high, not to mention Colin Firth coming out of the lake with a soaking wet shirt on…  and then of course my favourite line of all ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Just perfection. So it was with no surprise that I was a little, well shocked, to meet my already-happens-to-be-married-with-two-kids-Mr Darcy. That’s not how the story’s meant to go? Hello again! Yes, as you’ve probably figured out, today was the ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ for the cast of the Athenaeum Limelight Players’ Pride and Prejudice (https://www.janeausten.co.uk/austen-mania/ – read my first entry here). A great day was had by all and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other members of the cast, discuss plans for the rehearsal process …and eat Pride and Prejudice cake! Here’s how I got on… The whole group started with an ice breaker/warm up technique, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’; a very fun game in which you have to pass the clap or the ‘zip’ around the circle and then various rules get added to make it a simple (although it was quite tough!) but effective method to not only break the ice between new people, but to challenge our reaction times and cues. (This will in time help our reactions and cues on the stage.) Heather and Adela made the rules more competitive, (more…)
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In Defence of Jane Austen

by Rhian Helen Fender

Olivia Williams as Jane in the BBC film Miss Austen Regrets (2008)

 

“Mrs Edwards thinks you are a child still. But we know better than that, don’t we.”

So began the 2008 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility, with the cad Willoughby seducing the naïve ward of heroic Colonel Brandon. The atmosphere seductive with low-light and fireplace burning, ripping bodices and whispered words… In its review, the Telegraph described how viewers tuned in “with jaws dropped, to this unexpected opening for an Austen adaptation.” The question is, why? Why would viewers deem a sultry scene unexpected in an adaptation of the work of Austen? Austen appears to have a reputation for representing everything that is light and lovely, with the admiring Sir Walter Scott describing Pride and Prejudice (1813) as “a very pretty thing.” Austen herself seemed aware – and concerned – of her delicate reputation, stating her fear that the novel Scott so admired was “too light, and bright, and sparkling.” Whilst it is true to state that Austen was largely focussed on the lower gentry of which she was personally aware, it would be a disservice to her work to suppose she did not consider larger social influences or events, nor the more scandalous actions of those whose world she so accurately depicts. Within Austen’s novels are various themes that are often ignored or unseen when analysing her work, considered too sinister in the works of the purportedly genteel Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park (1814) tells the story of young Fanny Price, a girl able to rise above her station due to the wealth and goodwill of her extended family. The source of that power, however, is controversial due to the head of the household’s links to the slave trade. It would be an exaggeration to proclaim the novel as slavery prose – allusions to the system are rare and implicit – yet the very fact that Austen chooses to even subtly reference slavery is a bold move. The one direct reference to slavery comes as Fanny describes a family conversation with her cousins and uncle: “And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence. And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject.” Austen leaves it to the reader to deduce why Fanny’s family might be silent when discussing slavery – disinterest, embarrassment, shame, ignorance –and it is this empowerment of the reader in reaching their own conclusions which gives this brief passage weight. Austen does not preach to her readers, but allows them to make their own deductions. Sir Thomas Bertram’s years at his plantation in Antigua is what allows much of the action of the novel to occur – unloving marriages, flirtation and seduction – and the reader is not incorrect in supposing that Sir Thomas’s focus would have been better placed at home, rather than in underhand dealings abroad. Continue reading In Defence of Jane Austen

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Jane and Cassandra: Extraordinary Sisters

Jane and Cassandra

by Caroline Kerr Taylor

Jane and Cassandra
Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway as Cassandra and Jane in the film ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007)

Jane Austen was born in December 1775, the seventh child of Rev. and Mrs. Austen. Mrs. Austen nursed each of her babies for the first few months before they were taken to a neighboring family (the Littleworths). Each child was looked after by this family for the first couple of years until the child could walk and talk. The parents visited regularly during this time, until the child was ready to be brought back into the Austen household. This was not a totally uncommon practice for the time, nor was it considered unfeeling. As long as the baby was well cared for, that was what mattered to the Austens. Knowing today what we know of the importance of mother/baby bonding it would have been extremely disrupting for a child to be taken from its mother after just a few months and placed with another family. (And then, later, wrenched from that family when the Austens felt the child was ready to rejoin their household.) This could be a significant reason why Jane became attached more deeply to her sister than to her mother.

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Jane Austen’s Life and Impact on Society

by Gracelyn Anderson

Jane Austen entered the world fashionably late by one month on December 16, 1775, as one of the seven Austen children. The Austens resided in a parsonage in Steventon, England, and started a small school for boys in their home to provide extra income along with working their usual occupations. Although Jane’s family was constantly working to make a living, her early life was far from dull. As Meredith Hindley writes in her article ‘The Mysterious Miss Austen’: “From an early age, Austen’s world was full of boyish antics, bawdy humor, and outdoor exploration.” Jane had a natural tomboyish instinct, which she picked up from her five brothers.

At age seven, Jane and her sister Cassandra were sent to a girl’s school in Oxford, but it was short lived as they returned home a year later when sick with typhoid. Another year passed and the Austen girls enrolled at Mrs. La Tournelle’s Ladies’ Boarding School in reading, but stayed only for a year. As Hindley writes: “Austen’s experience, however brief, left her with little regard for girls’ schools. In Emma, she writes scathingly of schools that ‘professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality upon new principles and new systems-and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity.’”

Most of Jane’s education came from her father’s library and her lively and affectionate family circle. Jane used the library frequently, reading book after book and writing extensively. Mr. Austen encouraged Jane’s interest in writing and bought her expensive paper and pencils, even though he needed to save every penny. The entire family also put on home productions, adding to Jane’s dramatic experience, which would prove a help in later years when becoming an author. As Renee Warren has written: “One can only assume that it was in these excersises that the true talent of Jane Austen was being nurtured-through observation, improvisation, acting and participation.” Most of all, it was the world that Jane drew from to write. Her early experiences in life paved the way for the her well-known works.

By the age of nineteen, Jane Austen had begun working on “Elinor and Marianne,” which would later become Sense and Sensibility. Jane had been fearlessly experimenting with writing up to the point when she began her first novel. Jane acquired firsthand experience with the cruelty of a world dictated by money over love (much in evidence in her Continue reading Jane Austen’s Life and Impact on Society

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The Formative Years of George Austen, Jane’s father

George Austin

A look at James Cawthorn, George Austen and the Curious Case of the Schoolboy Who Was Killed by Martin J. Cawthorne

George Austin

 

Jane Austen’s father, George Austen has many connections to the city of Bath.

On the 26th April 1764 he married, by special licence, Cassandra Leigh in St Swithin’s, Walcot.  The Austen family were regular visitors to Bath and in December 1800, after 35 years ministering in Steventon, George Austen announced his retirement and moved to Bath, where he spent his final years.  He died in the city on the 21st January 1805 and is buried at St Swithin’s Church where a memorial to him has been erected.

Jane Austen lived at home with her parents all her life and the Rev George Austen played a significant part in her life.  Apart from a brief period at boarding school, Jane was largely educated at home; George also provided writing equipment for her to develop her literary talent.  The Rev Austen features in Jane’s correspondence and as a result much is known about his adult life. Very little, however, has been written about George Austen’s early life, before he met and married Cassandra Leigh.  It is known that he was orphaned at the age of six before going to school in his home town of Tonbridge, Kent, from where he won a scholarship to study at St John’s College, Oxford.  However, very little has been written about these formative early years of his life – until now.

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