Wet White Shirt
July 21, 2017 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Jane Austen died 200 years ago this year. There are events planned. There are too many adaptations to list, though most will cite the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth in a wet white shirt. Australian improv artists and rappers Sense and Spontaneity pay tribute to the scene, which wasn't in the book, in Dear Mr. Darcy. Jane's portrait will soon feature on the British £10 note.
posted by adept256 (34 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Like I said in a previous thread a while back, Colin Firth is nice and all, but for this dyke here, Jennifer Ehle, oh my.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. I reread it every couple of years and notice things I had not noticed every time.
posted by rtha at 10:11 PM on July 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Calamity Jane Austin?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:21 PM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Jane Austen 10£ note gives me semi-mixed emotions. I love it being the first woman on a British note other than Her Majesty Elizabeth, but (a) the Austen quote on it is from one of her less beloved characters, and (b) she's replacing Charles Darwin, which, in THIS country would be considered a major victory for creationists and other science-deniers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:25 PM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

(a) the Austen quote on it is from one of her less beloved characters,

That ain't the half of it!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:33 PM on July 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

They quoted Caroline Bingley!

. . . rassenfrassen oh my no they didn't. . .
posted by goofyfoot at 10:39 PM on July 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

posted by zippy at 11:47 PM on July 21, 2017

Thank you for posting this. Related: I found this recent analysis of her books interesting -- yes there is an actual chart, with data crunching! (Hat tip to my brother who sent it to me.) I'd considered making a MeFi post about it, but I think it will fit in here just fine:

"The Word Choices That Explain Why Jane Austen Endures" - Kathleen A. Flynn and Josh Katz, NYT (The Upshot). Excerpt:
Her novels, reasonably successful in their day, were innovative, even revolutionary, in ways her contemporaries did not fully recognize. Some of the techniques she introduced — or used more effectively than anyone before — have been so incorporated into how we think about fiction that they seem to have always been there.

One thing early readers did notice was naturalism. [...]

Let’s try to see this naturalism with data.

We started with a set of English novels published between 1710 and 1920. Using a technique called principal components analysis, we plotted each work on a two-dimensional chart based on the vocabulary in each book. Books closer together on the chart use more similar words.
Also related: "In Trying Times, the Balm of Jane Austen" - Susan Chira, NYT.

A few lifetimes ago, I was lucky to take a great Jane Austen class that covered all her books, including the works she wrote in her youth, and her unfinished novel Sanditon (if only she'd been able to finish it...). There were also free screenings of some of the film adaptations (fond memory: watching Clueless in a room filled with other Jane Austen students, and laughing heartily along with them and the professor, who'd never seen it before). Having the chance to do that gave me an even greater appreciation and respect for her talent.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:53 PM on July 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

A proper academic edition (with commentary, etc.) of her teenage writing was just released last month by Oxford University Press. More information about this book is in an article at The Atlantic.
posted by D.C. at 12:28 AM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was waiting for someone far more literate than myself to make a post marking the 200th anniversary. Littered with links and I'd just make a comment about this thing I liked. You shouldn't have hesitated, rangerfinder 1.4.

Lost in Austen made me smile. Darcy experiencing 21st century London is priceless.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is stupid stupid stupid fun.

In my schoolboy analysis of p&p, I wrote about how class and social status aren't barriers to love, really. But they are, or something. And of course she's proud and he's prejudiced. I didn't do well at English and they made us read it. Though I appreciate it today. It's a perfect romance novel, you wonder why anyone needs to write another.
posted by adept256 at 12:29 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a heretic on Team Twain.

"Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

But even then, I can't help the occasional "OH MR DARCY!" at Lyme Park
posted by BinaryApe at 1:26 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I cannot let this post go by without a little Bride & Prejudice.
posted by colorblock sock at 1:30 AM on July 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

I hesitated to include this link but I found it in my diligence, Jane Austen and the Alt-Right (NYT)

They just want to poison everything.
posted by adept256 at 1:40 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Jane Austen is the first woman writer on a British bank-note, but not the first woman apart from the Queen - Elizabeth Fry was on the £5 note from 2001 to 2010.

That said, Jane Austen is an excellent choice. As well as the novels, her collected letters are worth a read, engagingly bitchy in places. My personal favourite of the novels is Persuasion, perhaps partly because I used to live in Lyme Regis, where some of it is set. There is an excellent TV adaptation from 1995.

Another favourite adaptation (sort of) is Mitchell and Webb's Posh Dancing.
posted by Fuchsoid at 1:59 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have not yet read any Austen, but ran across this article recently which does not endear Mr. Darcy to me.
posted by eviemath at 2:33 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

goofyfoot: They quoted Caroline Bingley!

This is what happens when you don't make room in your budget for experts in literature.
posted by Kattullus at 3:54 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Someone once had an idea for a series of audiobooks read by people with the same last name as the author, so naturally Pride & Prejudice would have to be read by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
posted by jonmc at 4:16 AM on July 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

As an English professor, I see more students in classrooms than in the locker room. But in recent years, I have come to know a few of them as teammates. In addition to teaching courses and writing books, I play flat-track roller derby under the name Stone Cold Jane Austen.

Yes, a real English professor that plays roller derby under the name Stone Cold Jane Austen. Should have included her in the FPP because she's pretty bad-ass.
posted by adept256 at 5:51 AM on July 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

Eviemath, that article reads a bit bizarre to me. It starts out as a fairly ordinary "marriage economics" reading of Mrs. Bennet, then slides into a reading of Lydia's impropriety as feminist rebellion, huh what?

Look, Austen places a lot of the blame for what happened to Lydia on her parents' totally irresponsible non-parenting. Mr. Bennet is checked out (I found him funny when I was a kid, like he was the Cool Dad, but on rereading him as an adult, I find him pretty disturbing), and Mrs. Bennet is a social climbing fool. (Literally, her first words in the book are along the lines of "a rich guy lives next door, let's go visit him so he can marry one of our daughters." This is feminism?) Lydia eloping with Wickham is not an act of rebellion, but rather an act of hedonism. You might argue, as the author of that article does, that Lydia's just 15, she's a teenager, hormones... but that would be imposing a late 20th century social structure ("teens" weren't a thing until the 1940s or 50s, and still aren't a thing in many parts of the world) on an 18th century world.

Lydia's outcome, sans Darcy, would be prostitution when Wickham inevitably tires of her. (He does tire of her in the book, but they are already married thanks to Darcy, so he can't outright abandon her without consequences.) The 1996 miniseries implies this with some heavy-handed brothel imagery, and Austen makes this possible outcome explicit with one of the subplots in her earlier novel Sense and Sensibility. This is why I am bewildered by people who make Austen out to be a tea-and-cupcakes sort of writer; the books are quite dark!

Darcy, by intervening in the Lydia-Wickham disaster, is motivated by his love for Elizabeth pushing him to keep her sister from harm. He is also probably motivated by his memory of Wickham doing the same thing to Darcy's own sister. At this point in the book, Elizabeth has firmly rejected his (awkward, terrible) proposal, so he has no horse in this race; he could very easily be like "whelp, gonna go for a swim," but he steps in at high financial and personal cost, without any parading around of his actions -- his intervention is only revealed when Lydia lets slip that Darcy showed up with a ton of money and got them married and set up their household.

Also, it is categorically not true that Lydia and Wickham are ostracized by her family. Elizabeth and Jane regularly send them money, Darcy helps Wickham professionally, and they basically crash at Bingley's house indefinitely because they overspend even the money their sisters send them. The alternative, presented by Austen in Mansfield Park is to banish the transgressive character (in that case, Maria Rushworth) with impunity. There is no hint that doing that with Lydia and Wickham would reflect badly on Lizzie or Jane in any way. Lizzie and Jane do not act out of self-preservation nor love, but out of duty, a concept that was central to relationships in Austen's era but has really fallen out of favor these days. I usually like LitHub's analyses, but this one was just weird in trying to make Lydia out to be some sort of feminist flagbearer, when she really really is not.

Also also, you should read Austen, because she is the best.
posted by basalganglia at 6:40 AM on July 22, 2017 [40 favorites]

Rangefinder 1.4, was your class taught by ucla's Charles Batten? I had the pleasure of taking his Austen class in the late 80s.
posted by brujita at 6:53 AM on July 22, 2017

You pay off wretched weddings, with stealth and bribery, And behind closed doors have an enormous... library

The _Dear Mr Darcy_ rap is hilarious -- thanks!
posted by travertina at 7:01 AM on July 22, 2017

Book recs: I've just read The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, which I liked, particularly the format, which is history-of-the-world-in-100-things-ish rather than conventional biography. There's also a recent book Jane Austen: The Banker's Sister, which has the £10 note on the cover and talks about economics and the Austen family. (The author, EJ Clery, also mentions her theory that Austen's death may have been caused by poisoning by patent medicine.)
posted by paduasoy at 9:02 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh god now I have to watch Jennifer Ehle again, don't I.

I have shit to do, internet! Goddammit.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I prefer a damp Keira Knightley, thank you very much!

I can say this because Metafilter has no downvote function.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:54 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

(a) the Austen quote on it is from one of her less beloved characters

Oh that is so funny.

For me Jane Austen is the master of the bit of dialogue where a character says something to puff themselves up but is in fact revealing the exact opposite about themselves. These aren't subtle reveals either--the reader is supposed to get it right away. The bit right with that quote makes it clear that Caroline Bingley is praising reading because the only other option is actually reading or quietly letting other people read and she wouldn't want to do that.

So now the Bank of England is putting that on a banknote, and whoever did that reveals that they don't like Austen or reading all that much. The exact opposite of what they intended! It's like an insult to Jane Austen and an unintentional homage at the same time!
posted by mark k at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2017 [16 favorites]

And of course, you're all familiar with the Doubleclicks' song Mr. Darcy?
posted by Myca at 3:08 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

They, of course, met again.
posted by scottst at 5:20 PM on July 22, 2017

My friend and I worked on a site for Goucher College called Emma in America. It's got a scan of the first edition of Emma published in the US
posted by azarbayejani at 9:02 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Austen makes it fairly impossible to sympathize with Lydia, not because she acts scandalously, but because she is rude, shallow, demanding, selfish, and oblivious to the acts of kindness other people extend to her. She's an asshole, but she's family, so they don't want her to end up on the streets. Austen makes it fairly explicit that she does not improve with age, any more than her mother did, so it's not just that she's young.

I've met people like Lydia so I did not find her unbelievable in the least.

I did find Austen's treatment of poor Mary a little mean, but it's hinted she does improve, eventually.

I've always thought that men think women like Austen because Dresses! and Romance! But I think women like her because she was absolutely clear-eyed about the vicious, overwhelming forces that governed the lives of women in Regency England, and was in effect telling readers "well, here's how things could work out for the best, if you're lucky," with the subtext that a. they often did not and b. even when they did, you might not be all that happy.

Pride and Prejudice makes that explicit with the contrast between Lizzy's marriage and her friend Charlotte's. But Lizzy is younger and has better prospects than Charlotte, and Charlotte knows her only option is to marry Mr. Collins. It's the kind of choice many, many women made then, and still do when they can't live independently.
posted by emjaybee at 10:06 PM on July 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

Sense and Sensibility includes a description of a toddler having a meltdown which still rings true with contemporary readers.
posted by brujita at 11:00 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think Jane Austen would find that lithub article very funny--it's muddled in exactly the way she most liked making fun of. As far as I can tell, the argument is that Mrs B is great because she rails against the oppressive system and tries shamelessly to make it work to her advantage, and Lydia is great because she does what she wants and doesn't care. The fact that Mrs Bennet's strategies are terrible and ineffective when it comes to husband-hunting, and that no amount of yelling could have barred an entail, is irrelevant. Her heart is in the right place, even though her behaviour is wholly irrational, in terms of actually promoting the ends she wants. At least she has the right emotions! Who cares what she does with them! It's like a piece by a modern feminist version of Marianne Dashwood, aged sixteen.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:25 PM on July 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

So now the Bank of England is putting that on a banknote, and whoever did that reveals that they don't like Austen or reading all that much. The exact opposite of what they intended! It's like an insult to Jane Austen and an unintentional homage at the same time!

I think it's the other way around. The Bank of England just rewrote the original gag so Janites can laugh at people who haven't read the book. The intersection on the Venn diagram of bankers and Austen fans is enormous. No way are they not in on the joke.

We do this to each other all the time. That's how British humor works. Jane would approve.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 12:13 AM on July 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I can't help but imagine if Doctor Who had an episode with Jane in a similar outcome to Van Gogh's in Vincent and the Doctor. Austen lived a quiet and constrained life in straitened circumstances and her last years were spent in considerable pain. I would love to know how she would feel about how transformative her works have become. Seeing the look on her face when she saw the 10 pound note would be glorious.
posted by nikitabot at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I also think it's super cool that Emma Thompson, an English lit major and fan of Austen, got to adapt Sense & Sensibility for film and co-star in it, and it's cool the movie turned out to be successful and she won awards for being in it and an Oscar for the adaptation (I love that in her acceptance speech, she talked about visiting Jane Austen's grave to tell her about box office reports for the movie).

I also loved that Thompson's screenplay and production diary got published. Back then I was on a trajectory to work in film, so reading about her first-hand experiences and seeing her success was fantastic. (This was still when VHS was the primary medium of watching movies outside of the theater, and there were no audio commentaries or anything like that -- although I also recommend her audio commentary with producer Lindsay Doran, which they recorded for DVD later.)

Some of my favorite stories from Thompson's diary were when she'd nerd out and defend Jane Austen's original story in some way, whether it was about getting the particular style of the era's dialogue correct (there was one funny moment with Alan Rickman, RIP), or maybe the story background.

Either in the diary or in the DVD commentary (or both), Thompson talks about a scene where the set designer (I think it was the head designer, Luciana Arrighi) had put together an elaborate family picnic. When Thompson saw this, she contested it, saying (loosely paraphrased from memory): "No, wait, this is too much -- the Dashwoods can't afford all this food because they're poor!" I'm pretty sure they took away some of the stuff and Arrighi was disappointed (also paraphrased): "But my beautiful picnic!"

> Rangefinder 1.4, was your class taught by ucla's Charles Batten? I had the pleasure of taking his Austen class in the late 80s.

brujita, I had a different class but I'm glad you got to take a similar course!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:25 AM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

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