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Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the…

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2009)

by Claire Harman

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Not sure I've mentioned on this blog before, but I am a huge fan of Jane Austen. I think that her work is brilliant and will always be able to find a place in the minds and hearts of her readers. This is the first biography I have read on Jane Austen and while it wasn't a bad book, it did not live up to my expectations. Granted, I came out knowing a little more about one of my favorite authors, but nothing more enlightening than that.

From the back cover, I was expecting more insight into the mind and life of Austen, but in reality, Harman just wrote down many of the things that people have already written on or that I have already heard. There didn't seem to be any knew information and the sections in which she "delved" into the impact Jane Austen has on modern audiences, it really just came down to her saying, "We still really like her." Well, I know that.

I feel that Harman may have done more with the book if she kept to a straight biography instead of trying to examine multiple aspects of her fame. By doing this she was only able to touch on why Jane matters to readers today which led to her only saying what we already know. While reading I found that I wanted more facts about that time period and her life after I realized that she only dipped her toe in the shallow end with everything else. Unfortunately this just made the whole book one big shallow end. Sure, I learned some interesting things about a woman I have grown to admire, but nothing spectacular or particularly enlightening.

I suggest reading William Deresiewicz's, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, if you want a look at why it is Jane Austen affects readers still and what she has to teach us despite the fact that society has changed so much. As it turns out, people haven't really changed at all. Deresiewicz's book does what Harman wanted to do in her last couple of chapters. Possibly, Harman didn't realize that it takes an entire book to really examine how Jane Austen is relevant today and the reasons for her continued success. ( )
  kell1732 | Jan 25, 2015 |
An exploration of Jane Austen's literary, critical, and popular reputation from during her lifetime until the 21st century, Harman takes an intriguing approach to Jane Austen's life and works. The book is fascinating for its depth and breadth and deals with everything from the various biographical approaches to Jane's life from the 19th century on to the widely varying approaches to her novels from the critical perspective during the same time period. Harman also frequently makes reference to the particular brand of fanaticism that Austen's novels tend to bring out in her readers and explores its different shapes from the Janeites who formed the Jane Austen Society to fanvids on YouTube (she makes specific mention of one of my favourites). While the tone is a bit academic this will be an excellent read for both those with more scholarly interests as well as the Janeite. ( )
  MickyFine | Sep 8, 2014 |
I reviewed this for Open Letters last year: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/the-idea-of-her/
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which combined scholarship with readability. I found it very interesting to read a book on Jane Austen which explored her changing influence after her death, as opposed to focussing simply on her life. Harman's ideas on why Austen's novels have stood the test of time seem very probable to me. Harman writes with humour and clarity, enabling the general reader to digest a large amount of factual information; at the same time she provides more detailed references for the student in the footnotes.

If I had one criticism, it would be that the book ends rather abruptly - I was expecting some kind of summing up, conclusion or looking forward to the future...

However, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Jane Austen. And, if like me, you have often puzzled over the scene in 'What Katy Did Next' where Katy visits Austen's grave in Winchester and the verger asks her what Austen did that made so many people visit her grave... well, lets just say the key to that puzzle is between the covers of this book! ( )
  VictoriaLouiseHill | Nov 7, 2013 |
This isn't a biography, at least not in the traditional sense -- it's the history of her fame, really. It's about how her audience(s) has thought about, reacted to, derived from, understood and misunderstood both her and her writing.

That's quite an unusual subject for a book.

What made me give it four stars? I wish I could write an intelligent, well thought out explanation for that, discussing the various strengths and weaknesses of the books, the accuracy of the research, the validity of the arguments and conclusions, but I admit I cannot. I have no idea how accurate the research is, although it is copious and well documented (at least, the last 50 or so pages of the book are endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgments, and index). I'm not sure what the stated argument was -- that Jane Austen is now known far beyond what she would or could have ever expected when she was alive? That she would be confused and amused, shocked and delighted by the forms her fame has taken? That she is rarely -- if ever -- portrayed as she was, but more often as various people wanted her to be? That the reactions to her life and her writings are a unique phenomenon? That her place in the Western Literary Canon is deserved because the surface simplicity (that, apparently, disgusts, disarms, misleads, and outright blinds many readers and critics) is a shell over depth and breadth? That she really was a writer of small things? That it is impossible for a reading audience to ever really know an author, and all readers create for themselves a Jane Austen of their own?

Those are just a few of the questions pinning down the pages of this book. Answers are less prevalent although, from the tenor of the questions, it isn't hard to imagine what Harman's opinion is.

This is, of course, a book intended for those already positively disposed, in some degree, toward the works of Jane Austen, or any of the works derived from those original novels. In fact, in some ways it is more about those derivative works and the feelings, responses, and opinions that lead to those secondary works. Why is it that Jane Austen is so important that, although there are only the 6 complete novels and some fragments, we continue to create more in the way of movies and books attempting to continue, copy, or imitate her work?

Jane's Fame really doesn't dig in to that particular question, although it certainly works hard to state it clearly and at length. Perhaps there isn't a single answer, or Harman is not willing or feels it worthwhile to proclaim a single answer. This is a book to prompt more discussion. It brings together many opinion (quoted excerpts range from those of her own siblings to somewhat snarky discussions on current Internet forums). As a collection of the varying opinions and an assessment of the current state of the "Janeites" or "Austenarians", it's very engaging, interesting, and slightly provoking. It's also worth, I think, purchasing for myself (this is a library loan) and examining more closely at some point hence. ( )
1 vote Murphy-Jacobs | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
In Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, Claire Harman casts a jaundiced eye upon Janeites since the books were first published—including Jane’s very first readers, her family—and is careful to make the reader understand that she is not one of Those Austen People. She is a Serious Scholar, thank you very much, and Jane Austen’s pearls deserve better than to be cast before the swine who have called ourselves her fans for the past two centuries.
added by AustenBlog | editAustenBlog, Mags (Jun 4, 2009)
'In this extraordinary book, crammed with scholarship and glittering with trivia, Claire Harman provides an account of every conceivable perception of Jane Austen during her short life and in the near-200 years since her death in 1817.'
'... a happy blend of critical insight and narrative bounce, making Jane's Fame a fine addition to the current trend for analysing posthumous lives.'
'Harman unpicks the cultural and sexual fantasies at the heart of Jane fandom with great skill, placing each of various editions, films and fanclubs in their historical context.'
To judge by the continued and even accelerated proliferation of Austen-related films, souvenirs, and books (of which both Harman’s and Carson’s volumes are manifestations), the surge of Austenmania that started in the 1990s is far from over. What new heights can Jane’s fame reach, now that she has already conquered the world?
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When Jane Austen's brother Henry wrote the first 'Biographical Notice' about the author for the posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey  and Persuasion in 1818, he clearly thought his would be the last words on the subject.
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Beginning with Austen's own experiences as an author, Claire Harmon's groundbreaking biography moves on to explore the erruption of public interest in Austen in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and her global pulling power today, in print, on film and on the Internet.
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In Jane's Fame, Claire Harman gives us the complete biography--of both the author and her lasting cultural influence--making this essential reading for anyone interested in Austen's life, works, and remarkably potent fame.

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847672949, 1847675336

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