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Jane Austen News – Issue 100

Austen's books

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Austen’s Books! 


Austen’s Books Banned Behind Bars

This week we were surprised to learn that a new program in New York is severely restricting the books which will be available in prisons. This new program, amazingly, has effectively banned, among other classic authors, Jane Austen’s books.

Directive 4911A, as it is known, is currently being applied to three prisons in the state, but it could soon be expanded to every facility in New York. The plan limits packages that incarcerated people in New York state prisons can receive to items purchased from six vendors (with two more expected to be added). The idea is that this will “enhance the safety and security of correctional facilities through a more controlled inmate package program.”

This in itself isn’t a problem, but the range of books on offer is shockingly limited.  The first five vendors combined offered just five romance novels, 14 religious texts, 24 drawing or coloring books, 21 puzzle books, 11 how-to books, one dictionary, and one thesaurus. (A sixth vendor has added some additional books to the list, but the full list will not be available to all prisoners.)

One group, the Books Through Bars collective, has been working to raise red flags about the directive’s unintended consequences (for more than 20 years, Books Through Bars has been sending books to people in prison in 40 states at no charge).

A spokesperson from Books Through Bars has stated the the new directive will mean “no Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, or other literature that helps people connect with what it means to be human. No texts that help provide skills essential to finding and maintaining work after release from prison. No books about health, about history, about almost anything inside or outside the prison walls. This draconian restriction closes off so much of the world to thousands of people.”

We agree. Surely allowing prisoners to read Jane Austen’s books can only result in good things?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 100

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Jane Austen News – Issue 23

Regency Bath

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?

Bath One of the Best Literary Breaks in the UK    

england-bath1According to Travel Weekly Bath is one of the top ten UK cities to visit for a literary break. While many authors have lived and visited Bath over the years, including Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley, the focus of Travel Weekly‘s literary break in Bath was, of course, Jane Austen. We were delighted to see that one of their recommended highlights of Jane Austen’s Bath including visiting the Jane Austen Centre, and also staying during September for the Jane Austen Festival.

Other destinations which made the top ten were Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury, Sherlock Holme’s London, Beatrix Potter’s Lake District and Brontë Country (Haworth/Top Withens/Thornton).

Writing Women Onto The Stage Via Jane Austen

ashley_garrett_0623_.jpg.644x432_q100Kate Hamill was fed up with the lack of female roles onstage, so she decided to do something about it. The result was her award-winning adaptation of adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

“I had been an actor for many years,” Hamill said, “and was frustrated because oftentimes when you’re a woman, you’re competing with 400 other actresses to play someone’s wife… girlfriend… prostitute.” She explained the lack of strong, complicated heroines, such as those created by Austen, on stage: “most adapters are not young women.” As such she became an adapter herself.

This spirit of creating the stories (or in this case creating the roles) which you want to read (or play) is very much in the spirit of Jane Austen. When Jane Austen was writing there was a severe lack of strong female characters so she made her own. It seems only fitting then that her work is still helping to promote the work of other women today.

Kate Hamill and fellow actor Andrus Nichols will be bringing their production, which premiered in 2014, back to the Gym at Judson in New York from June 17th–October 2nd.

Jane Austen – Recommended Reading for the First Lady

Actress Alexis Bledel, while in her character of the iconic bookworm Rory Gilmore, from the hit TV show the Gilmore Girls, payed a visit to America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama so they could talk books. The resulting video sketch was published on the official Gilmore Girls Twitter account.

It was done in an attempt to help promoting Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, which speak to young girls about the importance of education and staying in school. Some of Gilmore’s recommendations included: Shakespeare – “because you can’t go wrong with the Bard” – Marilyn Robinson, Graham Green, “a little Proust” and Jane Austen. (“I mean, come on, Jane Austen!)

We at the Jane Austen News are sure that this is exactly the kind of initiative that Jane would be keen to get involved with!


Five Things That Pride and Prejudice Can Teach Us About Romance    

fairy-tale-pride-and-prejudice-featuredOne article that we came across this week is Five Things That Pride and Prejudice Can Teach Us About Romance. These were:

  • You don’t have to show your “goods” to get a man’s attention
  • It’s OK to not be good at everything
  • Don’t settle for less than the best
  • It’s OK to challenge each other
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover

We’re sure that Pride and Prejudice has far more to teach us about romance than just these five lessons. What other important lessons do you think should have been included in the list?

Did They Make The Right Matches in Sense and Sensibility?  
crime-and-punishment-in-sense-and-sensibility-did-the-characters-make-the-right-choices-1031211What would have happened if Willoughby and Marianne had ended up together? Would Marianne have been happier with him than with Colonel Brandon? What if Edward had married Lucy? Would Elinor have been so unhappy alone?

One thing that many fans of Jane Austen love about her novels is that the bad characters are punished and the good characters are rewarded in the end. But are they always? This article from Janee Heimdal asks if all of the characters really get the endings they deserve based on their actions.

Edward’s impeccable character deserves to be rewarded, but what about Lucy? She isn’t outwardly awful, but when I imagine Lucy as a villain I see her insinuating herself with Edward’s sister, Fanny. So does like cleave to like in this case? Yes.

Do you agree that everyone in Sense and Sensibility got the rewards, or punishments as the case may be, that their actions deserved?

Dancing Like Jane Austen in California     

mrs parks regency rout 1Jane Austen fans living in California had fun on Saturday learning how to dance like Jane Austen. Hosted by Period Entertainments and Recreational Costuming of Fresno, the dance featured live musicians, light refreshments and the chance to experience a little taste of a bygone era. The dances were taught before they were danced, with calling by popular folk musician Evo Bluesmen.

Mrs Parks’ Regency Rout is one of our favourite Regency dance events to have been held in the past week because it was such a nice blend of the modern and traditional.

Things which the dance had which weren’t 18th Century but were very much needed: central air conditioning, indoor plumbing, electricity and no requirement for women to arrive with an escort.

Attendees were also asked to “Please feel free to gender self-identify and dance with whomever your heart desires, regardless of whether they wear a gown or pantaloons.”

The Jane Austen News hopes that more all-inclusive and accepting dance events like this one will be held in the future!

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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Emma(2): 1996

Emma, 1996, Miramax. Written and Directed by Douglas MacGrath, Music by Rachael Portman. In 1996 the Jane Austen film fad reached it’s height with rare phenomenon: Two films of the same book premiering in the same year! A wonderful bonus for Emma fans, this dual presentation by Miramax and A&E spawned endless comparison of the two films, actors and scripts. While neither movie presents the whole of the book (Of the three, Emma1 actually does the best job of this.) the two 1996 versions provide such varied scenes that they are hardly telling the same story! Miramax’s focuses more on the Emma/Mr. Knightley theme while the A&E version focuses on the Jane/Frank and Emma/Harriet themes.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse. Written and directed by humorist Douglas McGrath (Saturday Night Live), the Miramax version presents a funny, lush, almost fairytale version of Emma. Originally planning a 1990’s update of the book, McGrath changed his script when he discovered that Clueless was already in the works. Then, near the completion of the writing process, his mother called to tell him that Emma Thompson was just then filming her own version of the story! Full of fear, he called his agent, only to be told three wonderful words- “Sense and Sensibility”. When the script was finally presented to Miramax executives and asked who should direct the film, McGrath suggested himself. Though this was his directorial debut, he did a fine job and clearly enjoyed himself! “I come from a family of hard workers, so I worked hard to convince them that bringing Emma to the screen was not a cushy job. After all, I had to snuggle up to a warm fire and reread the novel, which is laced with wit and romance. I had to sit through auditions with brilliant actors who made me laugh and cry. I had to shoot the film in ravishing English countryside. Then I had to watch it over and over and choose between a superb performance and a performance that was superb. It was draining work, but for Austen’s Emma, I was willing to sacrifice my comfort. After all, it is a classic.”

Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Jeremy Northam, who played Mr. Knightley also enjoyed his role: “I was being considered for another part and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, no Knightley is the part I really want to be seen for.’ When I met the director, we got on very well and we talked about everything except the film. At the end of it, he said he thought Knightley was the part for me, so I didn’t have to bring up the issue at all.”

Real life mother and daughter Phyllida Law and Sophie Thompson as Mrs. and Miss Bates. Phyllida's other daughter is Emma Thompson. Part of why this film works, is that it includes several real elements. Gwyneth Paltrow (21) and Jeremy Northam (35) really were the ages they were acting! Real-life mother and daughter, Phyllida Law (Much Ado About Nothing) and Sophie Thompson (Persuasion) were cast as Mrs. and Miss Bates, though both auditioned for the part of Miss Bates. It is lucky that they were cast at all! Sophie was originally thought too young and Phyllida too old! On her second audition, Sophie Thompson took her hair down and wore glasses, giving an older appearance and winning the part. At the time of the auditions, casting director Mary Selway didn’t even know the two women were related!

Have you never known the triumph of a lucky guess? Asked about the unusual choice for casting American Gwyneth Paltrow in what was originally to be an all British film, McGrath explains: “I chose her because I’d seen her in [a previous film] and she’d done the most immaculate Texas accent. I grew up in Texas, and when my friends and I would go to the movies, we would just kill ourselves laughing whenever anyone tried to do a Texas accent. But Gwyneth’s regional accent was perfect; she sounded like girls I’d grown up with. So I knew she had a phenomenal ear…..We had many actresses, big and small, who wanted to play this part. The minute she started the read-through, the very first line, I thought, ‘Everything is going to be fine; she’s going to be brilliant’…. We didn’t even open up the audition process, and a lot of actresses were miffed about it….The British actors were all terribly polite, but when we did our first reading it began in an atmosphere of ‘Okay, we’d better help the little American girl with her part.’ Then Gwyneth opened her mouth and spoke her first line. Her accent was perfect and everybody sat up all at once, realizing that not only were they not going to have to help her, they were going to have to race to keep up with her.”

...try not to kill my dogs... Gwyneth Paltrow won praise from cast and crew, not only for her acting skills, but her open and friendly personality as well. Co-star Northam remarks, “Technically she’s brilliant, but she was also a lot of fun… She just sails through and seems to have a blast doing it, and I think it shows on the screen because there’s a real sense of fun and mischief… I’m not saying there are not things an English actress couldn’t bring to [the role of Emma] but I think Gwyneth brings something which is different. I think by nature she has got a sort of New York, urban attitude… There is a sharpness about Emma and a kind of sharpness about Austen’s writing which is probably more akin to late 20th-century urban sensibility than we might at first believe.” McGrath adds: “The amazing thing about her is that as a rule she can be running around the set, singing, dancing, curled up like a cat, and then the minute action is called, she completely changes. She adopts every feature of a young woman in 19th century England of that breeding and station.”

From Left: Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton, Juliet Stevenson as Mrs. Elton, Polly Walker as Jane Fairfax, and Ewan MacGregor as Frank Churchill. Other characters include Toni Collette (Sixth Sense) as Harriet Smith, Alan Cumming (Goldeneye) as Mr. Elton, Ewan MacGregor (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) as Frank Churchill, Polly Walker (Enchanted April) as Jane Fairfax and Greta Scacchi (Jefferson in Paris, with Gwyneth Paltrow) as Mrs. Weston.

Worthy of special note is Juliet Stevenson (Cider with Rosie) as Mrs. Elton. Though she gets very little actual on-screen time, she fully embodies the vulgarity innate to her character. Juliet’s brilliant performance is one of the great highlights of this film. Her overbearing obnoxiousness, “with her Mr E, and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and underbred finery” seem quite from the novel.

...a shocking lack of satin... The beautiful settings, costumes, and hysterical dialogue, though not always in keeping with the time period, and Rachael Portman’s lush score present quite an attractive whole. The Motion Picture Academy certainly thought so, awarding the film two Oscar nominations, one for Ruth Myer’s gorgeous costumes (which Gwyneth Paltrow described as “Wonderbra meets a nightgown.”) and winning Portman her first Oscar for “Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score” (she has since be nominated twice more, once for Cider House Rules, and once for Chocolat.)

Emma is available on both Video and DVD and runs for 121 minutes. The DVD features chapter

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