Playing Jane
September 14, 2018 1:49 AM   Subscribe

 
Sounds like a trip to Austenland might be in order.
posted by fairmettle at 2:05 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


It's funny to me that they keep mentioning the lure of getting away from phones and technology

A few years ago I was visiting Bath and without planning it, my trip coincided with some kind of Jane Austen convention. I found it hilarious to see so many people in regency costumes glued to their phones and cameras.
posted by lollusc at 4:11 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


See also: Ever, Jane, the world's first Austen-themed MMORPG.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:18 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


Dressing up is a bit odd because Jane Austen doesn’t actually say that much about clothes. You can imagine the characters in post-Regency dress without really affecting the character of the novels at all.

I suppose we can see it as a marker for buying into the romantic ideal of P&P etc. But even that's a bit strange. Austen’s view of human nature is really pretty sharp and unsentimental, and the fact that her heroines end up with the right man is actually just a feature of the convention she’s working within, as she acknowledges sarcastically herself. That convention was pretty universal, not specifically an Austen thing. Saying you like Jane Austen because true love wins is like saying you love Agatha Christie because she always tells us who the murderer was in the end.

Hard not to conclude that these fans like Jane Austen for peripheral things that have no connection with her actual merits as a writer.
posted by Segundus at 6:15 AM on September 14 [13 favorites]


Previously
posted by adamrice at 6:37 AM on September 14


Segundus, I think you've gone a long way towards explaining for me why, even though I love the books, I never seem to click with "Austen Fans."
posted by JanetLand at 6:44 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


What Austin book would you guys recommend for a newbie? I tried reading Sense and Sensibility but just could not get through it.
posted by littlesq at 7:13 AM on September 14


A good way to tell the types of Austen fans apart is to ask them which movie adaptation of Pride & Prejudice they prefer. The only correct answer is the 1995 Colin Firth version.

littlesq, try Emma. The juvenalia is also good, very modern. A History of England reads like it could have been an article for the Toast.
posted by basalganglia at 7:40 AM on September 14 [9 favorites]


Saying you like Jane Austen because true love wins is like saying you love Agatha Christie because she always tells us who the murderer was in the end.

While Austen herself wasn't writing within the romance genre as it exists now, the Happily Ever After (or at least for right now) ending is one of its defining traits. Just like finding out whodunnit is expected in mysteries.

It's not that unusual for genre fans to, y'know, like the genre?

What Austin book would you guys recommend for a newbie? I tried reading Sense and Sensibility but just could not get through it.

Pride and Prejudice. Elinor and Marianne are soppy.
posted by asperity at 7:58 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


Anyone ever read the Kipling story The Janeites? It's hard to read, what with the dialect and the frame story in a Masonic Temple, but it's Jane Austen fandom in the WW I trenches.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:18 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


What Austin book would you guys recommend for a newbie?

Northanger Abbey! It helps to have a passing familiarity with the Gothic novel, since she utterly sends it up, but it's delightful nonetheless.
posted by kalimac at 8:30 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


I think Austen novels became so popular because she challenges the idea of a happy ending, then gives it to us anyway. It's that tension that makes her novels re-readable and inspires fandom.

To me Austen's novels are so rooted in the time they were written, that clothing is important. She does not often describe clothes in detail, but she marks them as signifiers of class in ways that would be noticed by contemporary readers. I am thinking of how Wickham's regimental uniform allows him access to a higher social class. If people want to approach her stories through fashion of the day, that seems fine to me. There is plenty of fandom outside of Regency balls.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


Audible has released a free-to-subscribers adaptation of Emma, with Emma Thompson as narrator and a cast of voice actors. It's well worth listening to. Just FYI.

I had read Austen as a young person, but really feel in love after the Emma Thompson Sense & Sensibility in 1996. Thompson wrote the screenplay, and she has a real ear for it. Her script felt so seamlessly Austen-ish that I was surprised when re-reading the book later to see how many liberties she had taken.

My point is, the movies are a perfectly good intro point for Austen. As with Shakespeare, hearing the language spoken, if it's done well, can bring out the humor of it.
posted by Orlop at 9:48 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


It's a fandom, not a secret society . Secret societies don't have Facebook pages and AO3 porn, and if they did, no one would know because it is secret.

I think I'd feel more charitable about yet another work in the "discovering fandom" genre if the dude were a better writer and if fandom was actually difficult to "infiltrate". Fandoms that are primarily women tend to fall all over any dude who shows up.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:10 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


For new readers, Northanger Abbey is the lightest and most playful, and also where the narrative voice is most clearly sarcastic. Pride and Prejudice is polished to a mirror gleam. Emma Is a model for writing about unlikable protagonists so you like them. The movie Sense and sensibility Is better than the book because of the changes they made to the plot, but it highlights Austen’s central themes of both excess emotion and excess decorum being barriers to happiness less cleanly.

I like the Kiera Knightly’s Pride and prejudice Movie largely because it was such fun to see what Emily Bronte would have done with Elizabeth and Darcy. She did not disappoint.

The point which interested me in regards to what a couple of women said - about Austen being romances and good manners tied up in a neat little bow of happily ever after, and about how so many of them found Austen’s books when they were in despair, makes me think about how the context of meeting something matters so much to how you interpret it.

I met Austen in the context of satire, in the context of dismantling “It is a truth universally acknowledged...” for the biting sarcasm it is. For its acknowledgement of how petty, small-minded people lay claim on the lives and money of others without their consent. His is frustrated me how often people use the phrase to then lay out what they think is true, instead of using it to skewer the presumptuous assumptions of others. I can’t deny, however, the people who view Austen as straightforward and romantic out number those of us who view her as a keen satirist, and that includes a lot of people who love her and her writing.

I can’t help to think that has to do more with what they needed to get out of Austen rather than anything accurate to Austen herself. The time and attention they put into creating their dreamed reality is, in a way, unmoored from the person and books which inspired it.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:18 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


Hard not to conclude that these fans like Jane Austen for peripheral things that have no connection with her actual merits as a writer.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a genre with a fandom is in want of gatekeepers.

One just feels a swell of emotion when gentle people are willing to take the time out from their busy schedule of telling women cosplayers and gamers that they aren't really fans, to protect Jane Austin fandom from Women Doing Fandom Badly. How did those poor delicate fans ever manage without such firm guidance?
posted by happyroach at 12:30 PM on September 14 [14 favorites]


Dressing up is a bit odd because Jane Austen doesn’t actually say that much about clothes.

WHHAAAAAAATTTTTTT. She says quite a lot about clothes, actually.

Littlsq, my favorite is Persuasion, but I think the best first one to try is Emma. Or you might want to watch the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility and then try reading it again. It sometimes helps to watch a movie first so you're not having to keep track of the plot while also getting used to old fashioned syntax. All of the adaptations are so good, I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.
posted by apricot at 1:21 PM on September 14 [2 favorites]


I mean, Henry Tilney is a very good judge of muslin, after all.

(I do love Austen, but my favorite Austens pretty much go in order by how hilariously mean they are, starting with Northanger and P&P.)
posted by nonasuch at 2:14 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


My favorite is undeniably Persuasion which is certainly her most earnest romance novel. This means i am not a proper litr'y fan who only appreciates her dry proto-feminist humor.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


I’m gatekeeping the fandom? If anything I meant to observe what a fanny thing dressing up is.
posted by Segundus at 3:01 PM on September 14


I will confess I suspect some of them are really Bronte fans who haven’t quite worked their orientation out yet.
posted by Segundus at 3:06 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]


I'm sure some of these people love Austen for the right reason. However, every "Janeite" I've ever met completely misunderstood the books. Structurally they are romances, but Austen is one of the fiercest moralists in the English language. I was not fond of Lee's movie version of "Sense and Sensibility" because it softened her hard line. She does not suffer fools, even if she lets them get married in the last chapter.
posted by acrasis at 4:00 PM on September 14 [2 favorites]


I can’t deny, however, the people who view Austen as straightforward and romantic out number those of us who view her as a keen satirist

I first read Austen when I was maybe twelve and found a copy of P&P open to the scene of Mr. Collins acting like an ass at the Bingley ball, so I took satire/ social commentary to be Austen's dominant voice. Therefore I was kinda baffled when the BBC P&P came out and suddenly Mr. Darcy was a romantic hero. Mr. Darcy was a condescending jerk!
posted by goofyfoot at 6:21 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


the BBC P&P came out and suddenly Mr. Darcy was a romantic hero. Mr. Darcy was a condescending jerk!

Why not both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:20 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]


I guess because there were tons of pieces of media and culture telling me that a withholding asshole was a desirable dude but Austen was telling me that maybe that dude wasn't so desirable, even if he was rich and/ or hot.

I still like Austen for that.
posted by goofyfoot at 11:42 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


Mods: the tag incorrectly spells her name as Austin rather than Austen.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:01 AM on September 15


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