Remixing Jane Austen
August 5, 2011 by Jada.Bradley
The recent news that an unfinished Jane Austen manuscript sold at an auction for $1.6 million is no surprise to her fans.
Books that take up Austen’s mantle are legion—there are sequels, prequels, mysteries, romances, and all manner of re-imaginings (zombies, anyone?). Some try to remain faithful to Austen’s writing style and historical time period; others attempt to play up the kind of situations that people in Austen’s day did not discuss openly (e.g. imagine Elizabeth Bennett as a mother with marriageable daughters learning that one of the town’s most eligible bachelors has a thing for stable boys).
Having read all of Austen’s books, as well as some of her letters, diaries, and early short stories, I still want more.
Lately I’ve been drawn to adaptations of Mansfield Park, a book that fans like to debate because many are not convinced that the book’s heroine merits being described as such.
Lynn Shepherd‘s Murder at Mansfield Park combines the best of both worlds for people who are fans of Austen and of British mysteries. Shepherd switches the book’s haughty and humble characters (namely Fanny Price and Mary Crawford), throws in murder and mayhem, and also repurposes some of Mansfield Park’s well-known lines in clever ways.
Readers who always thought that Fanny Price was annoying may be glad to see Price get her comeuppance. And even if you aren’t among the chorus of people who object to Fanny Price, the re-working of the plot is still intriguing.
In Edmund Bertram’s Diary, Amanda Grange re-writes Mansfield Park from Edmund’s point of view via his diary. Grange has written several other books that re-imagine Austen’s plots as her male characters would see it.
My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones employs the often used trope of having a modern-day girl join “Janeites.” In the book–at a retreat where Austen fans participate in re-enactments based on Austen’s plots–the protagonist ironically describes how she feels about some of the many spinoffs out there:
“I…hit the wall after Pride and Prejudice, confronted with the stark reality that there would never be any more Jane Austen novels. The sequels and prequels failed me; no amount of fan fiction could bring her back to life in my mind. All other books paled…”
While I could keep reading the original Austen works over and over, there is something about the spin-offs that keep drawing me in and make me appreciate Austen’s talent even more.
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Elsewhere inReads: A different take on the remix, photographer Jamel Shabazz’s Back in the Days.
About The Author:
Jada Bradley (jadabradley.com) is a Washington DC-based writer and educator who enjoys telling stories in formal and informal ways. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online. She holds Masters in Spanish Translation and is a great supporter of creative expression in the various forms it takes. She also writes about local cultural events as D.C. Cultural Events Examiner for Examiner.com. Her blog, In Other Words, can be found at inotherwordz.blogspot.com.