Chapter Six is about the Jane Austen brand.
Austen is both a popular author and a great one. As such she exists in several mutually exclusive spheres – she is all things to all men.
The middle aged, the middle class and those who consider themselves slightly above the middlebrow are Austen’s natural constituency. They (we!) love Austen – the idea as much as the books – because she comes from our own ranks and rocks no boats.
One of the main reasons for Austen’s popularity is the romance plot. In 2004 more than half of all paperbacks sold were romances. Contemporary ‘chick lit’ owes much to Austen – her heroes don’t dominate they can almost seem like ‘sensitive new aged men’. In fact, some critics (mostly men) complain that her heroes are a bit girly and recent screen adaptations have included extra manly scenes; Edward Ferrars chopping wood, Darcy fencing, etc.
Since 1995 there has been many film and television adaptations. Viewers seem happy to see multiple treatments of the same story. Changes in technology has also affected the way we watch the adaptations – we are now ‘super-familiar’ with the material.
There is a section on prequels and sequels and another section on the Internet (blogs, etc).
An appealing attribute of Austen is ‘being for us and for our time’. She is timeless – like all great artists she inhabits a sphere outside time. Harman believes AustenÂ worked to make her novels timeless because it is so hard to update a contemporary novel – think about the delay between the writing of First Impressions and Pride and Prejudice.
This book is an easy read and contains a wealth of information. It shows how an unknown clergyman’s daughter has conquered the world – it is like a biography of her reputation and fame.
If you’re interested in Jane Austen, then this book would greatly add to your library.
Now I need to start reading Mansfield Park.