Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Jane Austen cult

Having gone around for a while, looked at lots of websites, blogs, forums, comments in newspapers... I start to believe that even though there are more successful, well-known and influential male writers than female ones, nobody- that is, no classic author, female or male- has as many fans and admirers and aficionados as Jane Austen. Of course I don't have any statistics to support this claim, but I think she's likely to beat all others because her novels appeal to different groups of people, such as:
- (notable) writers (including Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, J. D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Fowles, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, Walter Scott, W. Somerset Maugham...) 
teachers, professors, critics (including George Steiner, George Henry Lewes, and Edmund Wilson) and those who decide what to be added to school curricula
serious readers, classic lovers, literati
- easy readers, including fans of romance novels, chicklit, young adult fiction, books with happy endings
That is, "Austen's works are now considered to be part of both high culture and popular culture" (
[This piece also makes a distinction between 2 groups of Jane Austen's fans: I can see that in blogs, forums... People in the 1st group may like Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Lev Tolstoy, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky... and at the same time, Jane Austen. People in the 2nd group may like Jane Austen and, at the same time, John Green, Stephenie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins...] 

Especially when you consider the following aspects:

1/ Critiques, analyses...

2/ Letters, biographies... 

3/ Film adaptations

4/ Sequels, prequels, parodies, tie-ins, spin-offs, mash-ups...

"Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen" (Sybil Brinton)
"Mr. Darcy's Daughters" (Elizabeth Aston)
"Pemberley: Or Pride and Prejudice Continued" (Emma Tennant)
"More Letters from Pemberley" (Jane Dawkins)
"Mr. Darcy's Diary" (Amanda Grange)
"Mr. Knightley's Diary"(Amanda Grange)
"Henry Tilney’s Diary"(Amanda Grange)
"Jane Fairfax" (Joan Aiken) 
"Mansfield Revisited" (Joan Aiken)
"The Trouble with Mr. Darcy" (Sharon Lathan)
"The Truth About Mr. Darcy" (Susan Adriani)
"The Unexpected Miss Bennet" (Patrice Sarath)
"The Other Mr. Darcy" (Monica Fairview)
"Darcy's Story" (Janet Aylmer)
"Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues" (Linda Berdoll)
"Mr. Darcy's Obsession" (Abigail Reynolds)
"Only Mr. Darcy Will Do" (Kara Louise) 
"In the Arms of Mr. Darcy" (Sharon Lathan)
"My Dearest Mr. Darcy: An Amazing Journey into Love Everlasting" (Sharon Lathan)
"First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice" (Alexa Adams)
"Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman" (Maria Hamilton)
"The Darcys Give a Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style" (Elizabeth Newark)
"Affinity and Affection" (Susan Adriani)
"From Lambton to Longbourn: A Pride & Prejudice Variation" (Abigail Reynolds)
"The Darcys & the Bingleys: A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters" (Marsha Altman)
"Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World" (Abigail Reynolds)
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (Seth Grahame-Smith)
"Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" (Ben H. Winters)
"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls" (Steve Hockensmith)
"Pride and Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged" (Carrie Bebris)
"Mr. Darcy, Vampyre" (Amanda Grange)
"The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy" (Sara Angelini)
"Sass & Serendipity" (Jennifer Ziegler)
"Mr. Darcy’s Bite" (Mary Lydon Simonsen)
"Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited" (Carrie Bebris) 
"The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice: A Modern Love Story with a Jane Austen Twist" (Abigail Reynolds)
And many others. 

5/ Other books inspired by/ related to Austen:

"Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict" (Laurie Viera Rigler)
"Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict" (Laurie Viera Rigler)
"The Jane Austen Book Club The Jane Austen Book Club" (Karen Joy Fowler)
"Austenland" (Shannon Hale)
"Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)" (Shannon Hale)
"Me and Mr. Darcy" (Alexandra Potter)
"Jane Austen Ruined My Life" (Beth Pattillo)
"Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature's Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart" (Laurel Ann Nattress)
"Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure" (Emma Campbell Webster)
"Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death, and the SATs" (Paula Marantz Cohen)
"Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field" (Melissa Nathan)
"Pride & Popularity (The Jane Austen Diaries #1)" (Jenni James)
"A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts #1)" (Victoria Connelly)
"Prom and Prejudice" (Elizabeth Eulberg)
"Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart" (Beth Pattillo)
"What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved" (John Mullan)
"In the Garden with Jane Austen" (Kim Wilson)
"Tea with Jane Austen" (Kim Wilson, Tom Carpenter)
"What Would Jane Austen Do?" (Laurie Brown)
"Searching for Jane Austen" (Emily Auerbach) 
"Among the Janeites" (Deborah Yaffe)
"Austentatious" (Alyssa Goodnight) 
"I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend" (Cora Harrison)
And many others.
See more:

6/ Blogs and websites:
And so on. 

7/ Other products:

Pride and Prejudice Block Text Pillows
Persuasion Block Text Pillow
Pride and Prejudice Marble Coasters
Darcy's Proposal Dishtowel
Pride and Prejudice Quote Mug
Half agony, half hope - Persuasion - Jane Austen
Various Jane Austen Magnets

"A Good Novel" Poster Austen Tags

Sense and Sensibility Clutch Purse
Pride and Prejudice Scarf
Jane Austen Quote Jewelry
More colors - Mr. Darcy Proposal -  Original - Slouchy Sweatshirt  -size S, M, L - Jane Austen - cranberry SALE-  I Am Mr. Darcy shirt-  L, XL, 2XL

Regency Costume
And many others.
And the gowns!

8/ Jane Austen's House museum:
Jane Austen Centre:
Jane Austen tours around Lyme Regis:

9/ Jane Austen parties (where people dress up like her characters):

10/ Talk like Jane Austen Day:
Jane Austen thesaurus:

11/ Jane Austen's ring was bought back from Kelly Clarkson because "it is so closely connected with [Britain's] history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune".

12/ And now she's on the banknote of England:

13/ You can read a bit here about Janeites:
Among them are the lunatics who sort of live in Jane Austen's world:
Jane Austen, by the way, is often referred to as "everybody's dear Jane".   

For the time being, I have no comment. Will (try to) decode this phenomenon in a later post. 


  1. Your impressive posting with its exhaustive research, many links, and plentiful images underscores my confusion about the Austen phenomenon. I do not understand it. But I very much appreciate what you have offered here. Well done!

  2. Di,

    I had no idea this was going on. I am more familiar with the academic interest in Austen and find myself in the first group of readers, who also read Dickens, Dostoyevsky, etc. Of the second group, I have enjoyed MK Rowling's most recent mysteries published as Galbraith. I do also read fantasy but I don't care for her Potter books.

    As for her popularity in pop culture, I have no idea. I wonder who or what will replace her in a few years.

    1. And this, at the time I didn't know about it:
      I might be wrong, but I feel like she will always be there, adored, worshipped...
      Also, not using facebook, twitter, tumblr... you're probably also unaware that quotes from her books are tossed around the internet and used very mindlessly. We all know that Jane Austen's very often ironic, and her characters' words are not necessarily her words, but lots of people (mostly young, I believe) just unthinkingly quote her characters and believe they're cherishing words of wisdom! 1 example is the line right on the banknote, do you see it?

    2. Di,

      Yes, I'm not involved at all in those forms of social media--blogs and book discussion groups are the ones I'm most interested in. I did have a twitter account at one time but found it irritating and frustrating--bumbersticker thinking passed off as profound bits of wisdom.

      Yes, I see the quotation on the banknote. I can see why the mistake was made: obviously the one who made the choice does not understand irony and completely ignores the context of the comment which is from P&P, if I'm not mistaken.

    3. Yeah, from P&P. Said by Caroline Bingley, to Darcy.

      Well.... crazy fans are crazy.
      Funnily enough, I saw this yesterday:

    4. Di,

      That's what thought.

      Don't remember though whether it was during the gathering at Bingley's or Lady Catherine's when she made the comment.

      Some of those fan gifts crossed the line from crazy to seriously disturbed.

    5. At Bingley's, I believe. Darcy's reading a book; Caroline pretends to read another volume of that book, and after pretending for a while, puts it down and makes that remark. That's what I remember.
      And yeah, those gifts are disturbing. How some of those celebrities didn't feel terrified and scarred for life is a mystery to me. Or maybe they saw too many irrational, incomprehensible things and no longer felt surprised.

    6. Di,

      That's how I see it also--just wasn't sure when it happened. She's trying to impress Darcy--a hopeless task as far as she's concerned.

      Disturbing is a mild term if those "gifts" were really sent.

    7. Hopeless indeed.

      About crazy fans:
      - I've seen 1 photo of the ear that Jared Leto received:
      - In this video people threw tampons at 1 Direction:
      - I've read about lots of stories about crazy fans. Like, really crazy. About, I don't remember, 7-8 years ago there was this girl in Hong Kong who from her teenage years had stopped everything (school and such) and cared about nothing in the world but Andy Lau. That's all her life was about. Her family had to sell the house or something so she had money to go to some fans thing. Then at some point when the situation became more difficult, the father committed suicide, which he thought would create pressure for Andy Lau to have a private meeting with his daughter as she wished. Andy Lau didn't though. I don't know what happened to that girl afterwards.
      And then stories like a girl got into Brad Pitt's house and lay naked in his bed, or some people bought at an auction a piece of chewing gum that had been chewed by Britney Spears, or some girls sold their virginity to have money for some K-pop stars' liveshow, and so on and so forth. About 2 years ago or so, in Vietnam there was lots of discussion when a bunch of fans knelt down, kissed and sniffed the chairs that their K-pop idols had just sat on.
      I can never understand those people.

  3. Di, I have linked your impressive contributions at my Beyond Eastrod Austen posting. I remain dumbfounded by the cult.

    1. Haha. Actually, I've just added a few more links up there, things I remembered just now.

  4. Now this is something: