Updatings of jane
Partly because of my own hybrid relation to Austen, as well as the cross-over influence of my teaching in American Cultural Studies, I included a fan fiction assignment on my course, “Jane Austen: Fiction, History, Fans.” The present essay gives an account of this experiment and aims to contribute to the ongoing conversation about the “customization” and teaching of Austen that has been taking place recently in Austen Studies.
It features on the cover of the 2008 Harper Paperback edition of Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander.In addition, the course also aimed to give insight into the Austen culture industry and the ways in which Austen’s novels have functioned to secure or subvert the boundaries between high and popular culture.To this end, we analyzed a number of film adaptations, notably the 2006 Pride & Prejudice, Kipling’s “The Janeites,” Paula Marantz Cohen’s Jane Austen in Boca, and some fan fiction on the Republic of Pemberley website, and discussed audience/reader responses to these varied texts.In this context, it is a truth not always, or not easily, acknowledged that student engagement with Austen’s novels today is always already mediated by film adaptations as well as the wealth of sequels, prequels, and rewrites, or “post-texts,” the collective name that I find most useful for these productions.
The students who took my most recent course on Jane Austen—at the same time as Lost in Austen was serialized on TV—are part of the Generation-Y audience that Laurie Kaplan notes is “most likely to see an adaptation first and to read the novel after having been impressed with someone else’s vision of the characters and setting.” Indeed, my own reading of the novels is now inextricably bound up with this Austen culture, so that it is sometimes difficult to keep the canonical and the recreated securely separate.
Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew "Monk" Lewis, Clara Reeve, Mary Shelley) the language and conventions of which are at once mocked and relished.