Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 135

the jane austen news is looking forward to seeing colette

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


In Defence of the Period Drama

Keira Knightley has been in a great number of period dramas. She was Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice, Anna in Anna Karenina, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire in The Duchess…the list goes on.

As a regular actress in period dramas, Knightley has been keen to defend the genre, which is often diminished or mocked as blatant Oscar bait or air-headed fantasy. This is something which has often haunted film adaptations of Jane Austen. Her work is often reduced to only its romantic elements, and the socially satirical side of her work glossed over; as if these two elements cannot exist together.

Knightley has done her best to highlight the merits of the genre however, something she has done brilliantly while promoting her latest film Colette (more on that in a moment).

There’s a negativity around them [period dramas], because predominantly they’re female… The strongest characters I’ve found have been in period roles.

And from a 2014 interview:

When I was younger, I felt like I really was doing something wrong for doing period films. I think I’ve now got to where I can stop apologising for that bit, and go, ‘I love them, I’ve always loved them, I loved doing them.’

We totally agree! If you love period dramas, you shouldn’t have to apologise for loving them.

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 122

jane austen news

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Charles Austen’s Story to be Shown?

Writer Susanne Notman is helping to tell the story of Charles Austen, one of Jane Austen’s brothers who was an officer in the Navy, through her screenplay Our Own Particular Little Brother.

Notman’s screenplay recently won the Gold Remi award at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, an event which attracts filmmakers from around the world. Notman’s work tells the story in the form of a part-fact, part-fiction script, which sees Charles Austen looking back over his life as he is dying of cholera in the Anglo-Burmese war in 1852. He reviews his time as the officer in command, his marriage to Fanny Palmer (the daughter of Bermuda’s Attorney-General), and his hope to get another command at sea, which effectively condemns he and Fanny to life aboard ship.

Notman’s research began when she met one of Charles Austen’s descendants, Francis Austen, in 1999. Since then she has found lots of information about HMS William (Charles’s ship) through the writing of Henry Wilkinson, who has written widely on Bermuda’s maritime history, and through ship’s logs, Charles’s diaries and letters from Jane Austen.

When Jane was writing to her sister Cassandra, she referred to him as ‘our own particular little brother… doing very well in Bermuda’. He sort of comes into his own in Bermuda.

Notman is currently developing the screenplay into a television series so that she can make room for the story to grow. We hope we’ll get to see Our Own Particular Little Brother grow into an excellent series and, maybe, on a screen near us soon!

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 122

Posted on

Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet

Lizzy Bennet

Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

We dream of them. We want to be them. We wish they were our best friend. Or our partner. And sometimes, we wish we could shake some sense into them.

They are Jane Austen’s heroines and heroes. Each of them has a flawed humanity, but each also has a unique and special quality—an Austen superpower, if you will.

Which is why they are so eminently relatable. Like them, we too are flawed. And like them, we have those same superpowers. They may be hidden away where we cannot see them, but they are there neverthless. All we have to do is believe.

How do we do that? By following the lead of Austen’s leading ladies and men, who dig down deep within themselves to access their own superpowers.

In this first of a series of posts, we turn to the heroine who is perhaps the most beloved of all: Elizabeth aka Lizzy Bennet of Pride and Prejudice.

via GIPHY

 

What are Lizzy Bennet’s superpowers?

1. The ability to have a cheerful attitude and sometimes even laugh in the face of humiliation and disappointment.


via GIPHY

2. The ability to recognize and admit that she has been as proud and judgmental as the person she condemned for those same qualities.

Let’s discuss Superpower 1 first. This is a tricky one, because at first, Lizzy only actually affects cheer on the surface. We first see her trying it out at that assembly ball where she overhears Darcy saying she isn’t pretty enough to dance with.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she tells her friends about it as if it’s the most amusing bit of absurdity in the world. Which would be fabulous, if she were truly unruffled. But the fact is, Darcy’s rejection forms the basis of Lizzy’s longstanding dislike of him. And her longstanding prejudice against him.

She is a little more sincere in her cheerfulness after Wickham dumps her for the newly rich Miss King, approaching the situation with a philosophical attitude that “handsome young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain.”

Superpower 2, however, is straight-up legit. After hating Darcy for his prideful attitude and his ruining her beloved sister’s romantic prospects, Lizzy comes to realize that she had pretty much misjudged Darcy the whole time. And that she, in fact, was as proud as she had judged Darcy to be.


via GIPHY

She was blind to Wickham’s true character because he flattered her vanity, while hating Darcy because he didn’t want to dance with her. Thus she had failed to see that Wickham was the true villain while Darcy was a good-hearted man of high moral principles. Who also happened to be a snob with less than stellar social skills.

Once she realized this, admitted it, and was humbled by it, she found the biggest superpower of all: true love. Because in Austen, super-honest self-examination always leads to lasting happiness.

So how can we cultivate Lizzy’s superpowers? For starters, we can contemplate a a few pithy quotes from Pride and Prejudice and see what we can relate to:

Volume 1, Chapter 11, in which Lizzy’s talking to Mr Darcy about the possibility of her finding something in him to laugh at (saucy wench that she is):

“I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

Volume II, Chapter 25, in which Lizzy’s Aunt Gardiner is talking to Lizzy about Jane’s romantic disappointment:

“Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it immediately. It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out of it sooner.”

Volume II, Chapter 36, after Lizzy reads Darcy’s letter and has a very rude awakening:

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried. — “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! — I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. — How humiliating is this discovery! — Yet, how just a humiliation! — Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. — Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”


via GIPHY

Volume III, Chapter 57, in which the whole laughing at people thing comes back to haunt Lizzy. Here’s Lizzy’s dad telling her of a rumor that she and Mr. Darcy are engaged, and how absurd he thinks that rumor is. Which Lizzy definitely does not find amusing:

“Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life!”

There’s a ton of Austen wisdom embedded in Lizzy’s metamorphosis. And with all that contemplation and self-examination we’re doing just by contemplating those quotes, we deserve a reward, don’t you think? Because we don’t need to settle for quotes alone. Why not treat ourselves right and read the whole book?

Oh, you haven’t read it yet? My goodness, are you in for a treat.

Ah, you’ve read it before? Well why not read it again? Come on, you know you want to as much as I do. No matter how many times I’ve read it.

Because in Jane Austen, there’s always something new to be revealed. Which is her superpower.


via GIPHY

***

Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet was written by Laurie Viera Rigler – the author of the Jane Austen Addict series.

Visit her at her website www.janeaustenaddict.com

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 71

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  A Writer With Friends? Heaven Forbid! 

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney have recently seen their new book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf published, and to go alongside the book they wrote an article for the Times newspaper which threw a little more light on why female authors so often have their female friends ‘airbrushed’ out of their lives by their family and society. When it came to Jane, they focused on her dear friend and fellow writer Anne Sharp, whom Jane, when in ailing health in 1817, proclaimed herself forever “attached” to.

So why do we hear so little about Anne who Emily and Emma say Jane had such a strong bond with?

Such a friendship flouted the social norms of the time. By keeping it out of official versions of Austen’s life, the family could create a false image of the famous author as a conservative maiden aunt, devoted above all else to kith and kin. As a result, the close bond she shared with Anne, who wrote plays in between teaching lessons, has become one of literature’s most enduring secrets.

Even today, as in Jane Austen’s time, it can be difficult to overcome the notion that a close, platonic female bond somehow threatens the allegiance a woman owes to her family. And while the opening up of professional roles during the 20th century has brought new opportunities for collaboration between women, the stereotype of the ambitious woman who jealously guards her place at the top continues to pervade.

This goes some way to explaining why the important friendships of female writers have failed to make it into literary lore.

At the Jane Austen News we found this to be a most interesting idea, and not one we’d really thought about before.


 Mr Bennet Gets Brewing!

A team from the Jane Austen Centre, including our Mr Bennet (Martin) and Jane Austen Festival director Jackie Herring, had a lovely day out this week at the Bath Brew House, where they helped to create a special Jane Austen beer.

The new beer is being created to celebrate Jane’s bicentenary year and will be an “Earl Grey, Red Ale”. It’s rather an appropriate tribute to Jane, given that she was a master brewer of Spruce beer herself.

The new tipple is due to be ready on July the 1st (just in time for the Jane Austen Summer Ball in Bath), and all of us at the Jane Austen News are very keen for a sample (or two)!

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 71

Posted on

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005) by Sheryl Craig

Is Pride and Prejudice primarily a Cinderella story? How you answer that question may well determine whether you enjoy or detest the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen film.

When spending quality time with Jane Austen’s novel, gentle reader, do you imagine paint peeling from the Bennet family home or picture Longbourn’s back garden as a filthy barnyard? Does Mr. Bennet potter about the house unwashed, unshorn and unshaven? Does his beloved library resemble the leftovers of a jumble sale? One might assume that the Bennets could do better with an estate that is lawfully their own and two thousand a year. However, this appears to be Director Joe Wright’s interpretation of the novel as “social realist drama.” Dear me! And what would Jane Austen make of that?

The poverty, grime and crumbling gentility adds what Wright refers to as “a bit more street,” if this is considered desirable. But what is “street” about Mr. Darcy trudging through a foggy field, white shirt front agape, looking for all the world like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights? Or was it an attempt to offer up Matthew Macfadyen as a wet shirted substitute for Colin Firth? Other choices seem to defy any analysis. Why turn Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) into a giggling idiot, someone not safe to be let out unattended? Why would Darcy befriend such a man, and what could possibly induce Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike) to shackle herself to him for life? Charlotte Lucas (Claudie Blakley) appears fortunate by comparison. Charlotte’s fear of poverty and her resulting acceptance of Mr. Wrong is well done, if a bit overly dramatic, but the film’s actors are not to be blamed for its faults. Indeed, the casting seems nearly flawless.

Knightley delivers a credible performance as a spirited Elizabeth, and Macfadyen need not be ashamed of his Darcy. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland & Brenda Blethyn) are given sympathetic makeovers. A kinder, gentler Mr. Bennet proves to be a compassionate father and an amorous husband not entirely indifferent to his frowzy, careworn wife, and Mrs. Bennet’s poor nerves actually merit some compassion.

Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) is not given enough screen time for one of the greatest comic characters ever created. Lady Catherine fares a bit better, perhaps common decency demanded it, as the role is absolutely perfect for Dame Judi Dench, but when Lady Catherine descends on Longbourn with a vengeance, her tirade is over all too soon, and this scene illustrates one of the film’s glaring weaknesses. The pace is much too rapid. Characters burst onto the screen, hurry through their lines and rush off with alarming rapidity. One fears that a great deal of talent was laid waste in the cutting room.

The rousing dance scene was enjoyable, but awkward attempts to add sexuality were annoying. The novel’s witty repartee and the chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden already suggest enough, thank you. In a film so obviously at war with its time constraints, Elizabeth’s fascination with a collection of nude statues at Pemberley wasted valuable minutes and added nothing, though a group of twelve year old boys might disagree. But was this the imagined audience? And one wonders why it was deemed necessary for the camera to linger on a pig. A pig? You well may ask.

Comparisons to the 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth television adaptation are inevitable. Granted, the six hour BBC time frame opened up a great many opportunities to unfold the story and to develop the characters in keeping with the “light, bright and sparkling” authorial intent. When it was first announced that there would be a new, Hollywood film of Pride and Prejudice, your humble servant was immediately skeptical. To quote Mr. Bennet in the novel, “what is there of good to be expected?” My own prejudices firmly in place, I never-the-less entered the cinema agog with curiosity, and, to give myself credit, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2004 Bollywood Bride and Prejudice, so I was not entirely without hope.

Pride and Prejudice played to a full house, and some members of the audience appeared to enjoy the film. Others, like myself, found it a bit of a disappointment, yet I may well go to see it a second time and will probably purchase the DVD in the fullness of time. I do such things; God help me. I can only conclude that the viewer must ultimately judge for him or herself, so this review will end with some words of wisdom from Mr. Bennet: “Perhaps you would like to [see] it. I dislike it very much. but it must be done.”

Sheryl Craig is an Instructor of English at Central Missouri State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Kansas.

Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Just leave your valid email address below.
Email Quantity We won't share your address with anybody else.
MENU