Jane Austen News - Issue 96
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?
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!
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