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

by Claire Harman

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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 |
Jane Austen is my favorite author. She and Charlotte Bronte remain the two authors whose works I have read and re-read the most. (And if you know anything at all about English literature, you'll know just how entertaining it is that I regularly lump these two authors together in my head on my own personal "best of" lists.) And I am certainly not alone in my love for Jane Austen by any means as the plethora of movies based on her books, sequels, and adaptations these days show. A quick skimming search of websites like etsy or ebay will yield scads of products marketed by their connection to Austen and her world. But how did Austen, who, after all, only wrote 6 novels and about whose life little is truly known become so universally beloved? Claire Harman's Jane's Fame seeks to answer that question.

As most Austen fans know, it took many years for any of Austen's works to be published and they were not the instant sort of success that one might expect of works that have been so enduring. Starting with the little known of Austen's life and her road to publication, Harman traces not Austen's life but the life of her novels as they grew into the cultural phenomenon that they are today. From the initial public reception of the novels to the publication of Austen's biography by her nephew which established her as a saintly hobbyist writer to the current craze for all things Austen, Harman has researched the changing feeling about Austen's works and in fact the re-writing of who she was as an author through numerous sources which back up her conclusions. Occasionally the tone of the book veers toward the academic but for the most part it stays less ponderous so that a more casual reader can appreciate the evolution of Austen's reputation and the critical reception of her works. It's a worthwhile read for Austen fans and an intriguing look at the way in which books can take on a life of their own but perhaps a bit too detailed for all but the most ardent admirers. ( )
  whitreidtan | Nov 12, 2012 |
If one was only going to read one book about Jane Austen, this is the one I'd recommend. Harman covers Austen's life, literary influences, work habits, as well as the public and critical reception her books have received in the years since their first drafts. Few regular readers are interested (I think) in critical analysis as practiced by professors of English literature, but Harman gives concise and fairly entertaining overviews of the many theories, as well as an idea of how well they've been received or not.

And for the most ardent fan, she not only discusses the scriptwriting involved in making films from the texts, she also address the whole Darcy-in-a-wet-shirt phenomena. ( )
1 vote Kaethe | Oct 22, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (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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Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Canongate Books

Two editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847672949, 1847675336

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