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July 27, 2012

"Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures" — Claudia L. Johnson


This new book by Johnson, an English professor at Princeton, was reviewed in the latest issue of The Economist; excerpts from the review follow.

Jane Austen wrote six novels, lived quietly in Hampshire and died at the age of 41, having enjoyed moderate success. Since then, a cult of "Janeism" has ensured her legacy, and she has become one of the most widely read and revered 19th- century novelists.... Claudia Johnson (a Janeite with objectivity) traces the development of Janeism from the late 19th century to the present day.

The opening chapter on Austen's body and her image is the most memorable. Few pictures of Austen survive, and over the decades she has been re-imagined in paintings, books, plays and films. Her place and meaning in culture have also shifted as society has changed. The Victorians saw magic in her stories; disenchanted with modernism, they aligned her novels with fairy tales and an idealised England. In the first world war soldiers carried her books to the front line as companions in a terrifying conflict, perceiving peril in the pages and toughness in her words. During the second world war Austen was considered the epitome of Englishness, part of the restful home front that needed protecting.

Read the beginning of the book's Introduction here.

Read all six of Austen's novels here.

Free, the way we like it.

July 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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