Adventures in Reading


The Spin-Off or Jane Austen’s Fan Fict Crowd
September 7, 2007, 11:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Upon my brief research done through Googling, I have come to the conclusion that the author with the single greatest fan fiction base has to be Jane Austen. This ranges from Elizabeth and Darcy erotica to a plethora of sequels. Not too long ago I decided that as I read the novels I would try to watch the movies and television adaptations and after coming across Old Friends and New Fancies (1913) by Sybil G. Binton I decided, “Why not give some of these spin-offs a try?” Little did I realize exactly what I was getting myself into.

According to the Republic of Pemberley Pride & Prejudice has at least 55 sequels. (From my understanding RoP uses the term sequels to distinguish between published Austen fan fiction versus strictly net fan fiction.) Likewise, the amount of film adaptation is astounding. My mind is boggled by the sheer fact of how often everyday such a great amount of people are thinking of Jane Austen.

Now where did I leave off in my Pride & Prejudice musings? Bingley & co. Hertfordshire much to the chagrin of the Bennet family (for varying reasons). Here I began to really witness the prejudice in both Jane and Elizabeth. If Eliza is prejudice against Darcy from the initial dance in the book I suppose an equal prejudice exists in Jane resulting of the preconceived notion of goodness in everyone she encounters.

The property entailment is inarguably at least one if not the central tension in the book. As a direct result I have been rather scandalized at the repeated discussion referencing Mr. Bennet’s demise. This subject begins to crop up more regularly after Collin’s has asked for Charlotte Lucas’ hand and she has accepted. Something I am struggling with is challenging my own perceptions and prejudices of Austen’s books. One argument I have always had (or rather felt) against the novels are the lack of strong female characterizations but I suppose in retrospect that was a bit silly of me. My modern idea of a strong female character does not exist in Austen’s world and when analyzing this feature of her writing I must take this into consideration.

First, I suppose I ought to try and describe what I mean when I say strong female character and I had this all laid out in my head until I came across the Amelia Bloomer Project. This excerpt from the page offers a basis for how books are chosen for the project but I have found it helpful in considering Austen:

The books on this year’s list honor past victories through current personal struggles advancing women’s equality to visualizations of a future ideal society. The list includes books that look to our roots and gaze toward the future, including biographies of women who shattered the limitations placed on women regarding science, politics, sports, activism, civil and woman’s rights, fantasies featuring girls taking charge of their situations despite obstacles, and contemporary and historical fiction focusing on the fight for equality and rights that many take for granted.”

Austen’s books definitely have feminist undertones. Charlotte Lucas is a great example. She is a 28-year-old woman with little romantic notions or convictions who accepts the hand of a near stranger to help get her out of her present condition. The condition: Plain Charlotte is basically a spinster at this point and rather than remaining a ward of her father and later of a male relative she takes matters into her own hands. She strategically gets Collins to propose to her and then successfully maneuvers their marriage to spend as little time with the man as possible. Thus in one sense Charlotte has proven her capableness by obtaining her a marriage match that places her at a more successful vantage point in this historic period. In juxtaposition, Charlotte marries a man she does not even seem to like let alone love.

Now back to the Amelia Bloomer Project passage, Charlotte definitely takes charge of her situation in the face of obstacles but is she really fighting for equality and rights? And perhaps that is where my stumbling block is. Austen presents us with intelligent, assertive, and witty women who can manage their lives and situations but it is that last part the she never reaches. Her strong female characters make the best of the situation they are in but the radical in me consistently comes back that they make due with their situation but never directly challenge the system as books by Sarah Grand and Mona Caird will do some years later.

This then adds a new layer of how groundbreaking Austen’s work was in commemorating and displaying women’s lives and interactions and whether this push forward into women’s literature allowed for the later Grand and Caird to be as progressive as they were/are. But once again, Austen (or should I say Lizzie’s and Jane’s) emphasis on romantic or companionate marriages throws another wrench into it!

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[…] an earlier post I mentioned reading some of the more popular and published sequels of Austen’s novels. While […]

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