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Janeites : Austen's disciples and devotees…

Janeites : Austen's disciples and devotees

by Deidre Lynch

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If the reader believes the descriptions of this book and the introduction by Deirdre Lynch, they are probably expecting essays that chiefly deal with non-academic fans of Jane Austen. They don't, especially not with contemporary fans. Knowing that the authors are mainly academics, I don't mark this down for the often impenetrable writing, although I think "publish-or-perish" has a lot to answer for, but I wouldn't have read this if I had known what it actually was.

Lynch's essay is one of the better pieces in the book, and the non-academic may be amused by her rueful acknowledgement that unauthorized laity are reading and forming opinions without guidance from the experts. If the authors meant to study lay readers, I would have thought that they would have started with the Jane Austen societies. Lynch mentions the "Republic of Pemberly" website, but none of the authors consult it. The essays deal almost entirely with the opinions of critics and other literary figures such as E.M. Forster.

The authors would also have been well-advised to read Natalie Taylor's The Friendly Jane Austen: A Well-Mannered Introduction to a Lady of Sense and Sensibility, which divides the fans into four different main groups. Most of the authors take a very narrow view of what people enjoy in their reading. One writes about "Americanizing" Jane Austen; it apparently never occurs that one might not need to do that to enjoy a foreign author. One also doesn't have to identify with the gentry of Austen's books to identify with their common human feelings, desires and frailties.

There are some interesting snippets about early readers, lending libraries, Virago press authors, the movies, etc., but it is often buried in rambling academese and much is discussed elsewhere. Picking apart the details of books can be fun when it is done with the flair and wit of John Sutherland's Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet?: Further Puzzles in Classic Fiction (Oxford World's Classics), alas, he is not one of the authors. The piece on Edward Said's view of Jane Austen was one of the best essays, but again, what has this to do with lay Jane Austen fans?

I am sure that many academically-minded people would enjoy this book, but it is misleadingly described. ( )
  juglicerr | Oct 10, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0691050066, Paperback)

Over the last decade, as Jane Austen has moved center-stage in our culture, onto best-seller lists and into movie houses, another figure has slipped into the spotlight alongside her. This is the "Janeite," the zealous reader and fan whose devotion to the novels has been frequently invoked and often derided by the critical establishment. Jane Austen has long been considered part of a great literary tradition, even legitimizing the academic study of novels. However, the Janeite phenomenon has not until now aroused the curiosity of scholars interested in the politics of culture. Rather than lament the fact that Austen today shares the headlines with her readers, the contributors to this collection inquire into why this is the case, ask what Janeites do, and explore the myriad appropriations of Austen--adaptations, reviews, rewritings, and appreciations--that have been produced since her lifetime.

The articles move from the nineteenth-century lending library to the modern cineplex and discuss how novelists as diverse as Cooper, Woolf, James, and Kipling have claimed or repudiated their Austenian inheritance. As case studies in reception history, they pose new questions of long-loved novels--as well as new questions about Austen's relation to Englishness, about the boundaries between elite and popular cultures and amateur and professional readerships, and about the cultural work performed by the realist novel and the marriage plot.

The contributors are Barbara M. Benedict, Mary A. Favret, Susan Fraiman, William Galperin, Claudia L. Johnson, Deidre Lynch, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Roger Sales, Katie Trumpener, and Clara Tuite.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:56 -0400)

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