Monday, December 13, 2010

The Cult of Jane Austen

This weekend, I finally got around to watching The Jane Austen Book Club, a 2007 film based on the 2004 novel of the same name.  Let me preface this by saying my expectations weren't high--from what I remembered of the trailers, the movie promised to be chicklit desperately clinging to Jane Austen's pettycoats.  I regret to report that this is exactly what it was.

I love reading Jane Austen.  I have marked up my copies of Persuasion and Sene and Sensibility, and there's something so comforting about watching Colin Firth play Mr. Darcy on a rainy afternoon.  However... I find it hard to believe that every conversation these women had over the course of six months revolved around Jane Austen's novels.  I could not suspend disbelief long enough to tolerate the idea of Persuasion saving a doomed marriage.  I shuddered when the words "What Would Jane Do?" flashed across the screen in an epiphany for one of the characters.

"What Would Jane Do?"  Really?

The Complete Works of Jane Austen is not the Bible.  While the novels do provide a certain guidance on appropriate behavior for women, they do not impart deep life lessons.  I've often argued that Austen includes more social commentary than many would give her credit for, but I have never even thought that a person should base all of his or her decisions on Emma or Mansfield Park.  Why not?  Because that's not the point or her work.

To me, reading Jane Austen is like eating organic apple sauce.  It tastes good without being too sweet, it's good for me, and I could eat it all day.  It is not, however, Holy Communion.  Why can't there be a middle ground when we talk about this stuff?


Enbrethiliel said...


I know what you mean about the cult of Austen worshipers! They make it so hard to appreciate her properly.

"What would Jane do?" Really? LOL!!!

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I've had people accuse me of being in the cult, because I LOVE talking about things like whether Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice was a lesbian, but I have NEVER in my life asked myself what Jane (or Elizabeth Bennet, or whoever) would do in a situation. NEVER.

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