Whether you hate it or you love it, it's fun to read in a group of Austen-crazy folk! Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves, discuss!! And sign up at Austen in August headquarters.
Whether you hate it or you love it, it's fun to read in a group of Austen-crazy folk! Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves, discuss!! And sign up at Austen in August headquarters.
By Corrie GoldmanThe Humanities at Stanford
Fascinating article. Seems that reading makes us smart. And reading Austen makes us smarter (I can take liberties with the findings if I want to.)
But what's really fascinating to this reader is that the folks conducting the study chose "Mansfield Park" for t their test subjects. "Mansfield Park," with which many Janeites have a love-hate relationship, and which has caused many a flame war on Austen forums.
Personally, I've grown to admire it, but I cannot help but wonder why they didn't choose a more popular read, such as "Pride and Prejudice" or "Persuasion."
Another thought: Has anyone ever tried to think, let alone read, for pleasure or study, inside an MRI? It's sort of like having a jackhammer next to your head. A jackhammer that laughs at noise-cancelling headphones and says, "As if."
Stephanie's got lots of choices for challenge participants, from Austen's own works to Austen-inspired novels (like those by yours truly) to sequels and continuations, movies, and even crafts.
I wonder if taking English country dance lessons counts? Or playing with my Jane Austen Action Figures??
And did I say there were lots of giveaways?
Here's what I'm going to do (not necessarily in this order):
Oh, and I want to read so many others on this list. I don't think I can keep it down to six!
Tip: If anyone's looking for a really fun, lovely Austen nonfiction, Margaret Sullivan's JANE AUSTEN HANDBOOK (also on Stephanie's list) is excellent. And did I say funny? There's one line on page 92 that will make you howl with laughter.
Make haste to the Everything Austen Challenge II!
Posted at 01:52 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen-inspired books, Books, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sense and Sensibility | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Everything Austen Challenge II, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Handbook, Margaret Sullivan, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Stephanie's Written Word
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by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This is my guest post for Jane Austen Today.]
What? No more weekly doses of Austen on PBS? Fear not, my fellow addicts. Help is here. All you need to do is follow this ten-part program.
Re-reading Austen's six novels (or reading them for the first time) will of course play a big role in this program. Ah, but what accompanies each read will make your experience even sweeter.
1. Try Northanger Abbey for your first post-Masterpiece read. Why Northanger Abbey? One reason could be that it was the first of Austen's novels to be accepted by a publisher—who then couldn't be bothered to publish it. Idiot. Thumbing your nose at such stupidity is one reason to read it first. Another, even better reason, is that NA's a fun way to shake off the post-Masterpiece blues.
• After you read the book, see what it's like to be Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey. How? Drive or walk around your city or town and pretend you are seeing it from the point of view of someone who has never been there and finds it fascinating and exciting. See? You're experiencing your world like Catherine experienced the city of Bath. If you're hard pressed to find something exciting or fascinating about your world, go into the nearest flower garden and learn to love a hyacinth. Or just think about how a young woman from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century might respond to some of the modern technological wonders you take for granted. Like hot showers, for example. Flush toilets in every house. Mascara. Tampons.
• Then, top off your newfound sense of wonder and appreciation for your world by firing up your DVD player with the 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey* starring J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones. There. Aren't you feeling better already?
• *Ready for more? Try the 1986 adaptation of Northanger Abbey. Though it's unpopular with a lot of Janeites, you might, like me, find it entertaining.
2. Read Sense and Sensibility.
• After you close the book on Elinor and Marianne, imagine what happens next. (We all know these characters are real and keep living their lives after the books end, don't we?) Here's a fun situation to ponder: What happens the first time Edward and Elinor go to London and have dinner at Edward's mother's house—and are sitting across the table from Lucy and Robert? What do they talk about? Imagine Elinor sitting in the drawing room after dinner with Mrs. Ferrars and Lucy. And here's another one to consider: Should Marianne, or Mrs. Dashwood, ever confront John Dashwood about his broken promise to help them financially? If you were to write that speech, what would you have Marianne say? Or should the Dashwood ladies let John's own guilty conscience do all the work?
• Now that you've survived all those Dashwood/Ferrars family reunions, reward yourself with a screening of the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility (1995)* And while you're at it, order yourself a large pizza, chocolate cake, and/or a trough of margaritas. Yes. This program is definitely working.
3. Read Pride and Prejudice.
• After you read the book, imagine that you are Elizabeth experiencing your first visit to Rosings as Mrs. Darcy. (Lady Catherine has cooled down by now and consoles herself by hoping that her nephew will be so fortunate as to become widowed at a young age and redeem himself by taking a second wife, i.e., Anne de Bourgh.) Amuse yourself by observing the gyrations of Mr. Collins when he and Charlotte join the Rosings party for dinner. As Elizabeth once said to Mr. Darcy, "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."
• But wait, there's more. It's time to watch the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle P&P mini again (one can never watch it too many times), and/or the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, depending on whether your idea of Mr. Darcy is Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen or both. The 1995 mini is a great excuse to have a pajama party (where I grew up, we called them slumber parties). And one is never too old to have a slumber party. Send the kids away for sleepovers and banish any curmudgeonly significant others. Then, bring in lots of goodies, because five hours of viewing requires a great deal of fuel. There's all that fencing and swimming and dancing and taking refreshing turns around the room. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. No matter which film you watch (or even if you watch both), be sure to buy the soundtrack of the 2005 film and play often. It's stunning.
4. Read Mansfield Park.
• Even if you're a reader who can't quite warm up to Austen's heroine Fanny Price (I feel your pain, but do give her some time; she grew on me after awhile), you can have a lot of fun thinking about how this book could have ended but didn't. For me, that's the most fascinating, thought-provoking aspect of Mansfield Park. As Patricia Rozema, director of the controversial 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park, put it in her screenplay, "It could have all turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn't." With that in mind, imagine what would have happened if Edmund had married Mary Crawford, and if Fanny had given in and married Henry Crawford. Happy marriages? Reformed rakes? Or a disaster?
• As compensation for the lack of a truly satisfying Mansfield Park film (see below)*, you get to watch the lovely 2007 BBC mini of Sense and Sensibility instead. I know, it's Sense and Sensibility, not Mansfield Park, and you just saw it on TV, but who cares? It's worth seeing again. It'll make you feel good. And isn't that what this program is all about?
*I'm one of the minority of Janeites who liked the 1999 Patricia Rozema adaptation of Mansfield Park, but I liked it more as a story inspired by Mansfield Park than as an adaptation per se. Rozema's rendering of Fanny Price is more like the director's idea of a young Jane Austen than the protagonist Jane Austen wrote for Mansfield Park. And Rozema's vision of the story's subtext is pretty dark. But then again, the book itself is perhaps the least "light, and bright, and sparkling" of Austen's works. By the way, there is a fascinating article on this film by Kathi Groenendyk in JASNA's journal Persuasions: As for the latest adaptation that aired on PBS, it has such a truncated version of the story that one wonders how anyone who didn't read the book could figure out what's going on. Mrs. Norris, Fanny's main nemesis, has mysteriously turned into a bland creature. And Fanny Price looks entirely too 21st-century and wears cleavage-baring day dresses (none of this is the fault of the actors, but still). As for the 1983 BBC mini, the heroine is more faithful to the book than its companions. However, while the principal actors are unquestionably talented I couldn't quite see some of them in their roles. And it's got that static, video-on-a-stage feel of early BBC productions that I find challenging to watch.
5. Read Emma.
• After you finish the book, play a little game called "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." You'll need to play with a single friend (preferably a single friend who would like to be in a couple). Each of you sits down and writes a list of qualities that your friend's perfect, future mate should possess. Do not reveal what is on your lists until both of you are finished writing. Now share. You may be surprised to find that your lists differ greatly. When you read your friend's list, refrain from exclamations of horror unless one of the items on that list includes "must be incarcerated in a maximum security prison." Now, give your list to your friend to take home with her. Tell her she is free to cross out whatever she doesn't like on your list and keep whatever she does like. Or burn the whole thing. If she cares to share her final list with you, you may keep your eyes open for appropriate candidates and discreetly point them out to her. That's "point them out," not shove them in her face. Remember, you are "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." If your friend doesn't care to share her final list, then graciously wish her all the best in finding her dream partner and promptly change the subject. Then, take her to Ford's (or local emporium of your choice) to buy a new dress. Or draw her picture. Without a potential mate watching the proceedings. See? You're a better, happier human being already.
• Now that you've had a successful run at self-improvement, Jane Austen-style, you deserve to have an Emma film festival. That's three very clever films indeed: The Kate Beckinsale/Mark Strong-starrer, the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam movie , and the brilliant Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and directed by Amy Heckerling. Three fabulous films means you get to invite at least three friends over to have a viewing party or slumber party. And stock up on provisions, for a private screening of three films, without sitting down to supper, [would be] pronounced an infamous fraud upon the rights of men and women.
6. Read Persuasion.
• After you finish the book, amuse yourself by imagining whether or not Mrs. Clay will indeed become the next Lady Eliot. If she does, will Anne and Frederick, or any of her family, ever visit Sir William and Lady Eliot? How will Mary's health survive it? Or Elizabeth's pride? Or on a pleasanter note, will Capt. Wentworth allow his wife on board his ship? If so, what exciting places will Anne visit?
• Watch the lovely, 1995 adaptation of Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Optional: the 2007 version of Persuasion. Although Austen's story is compressed into a scant 93 minutes in the latest version, this one is also worth watching, particularly if you love Rupert Penry-Jones as much as I do. Besides, the DVD restores the small but significant bits that were cut from the PBS broadcast.
7. Join the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and mingle with fellow Janeites at local and national meetings. I know what you're thinking, and yes, the rumors are all true. It's a cult. We have a secret handshake. We aim for total world domination. Okay, you can stop sweating now. I'm kidding. Really. JASNA is a community of warm, welcoming, fun-loving people who love Jane Austen and love getting together and talking about their favorite author with like-minded people. Like you. There are local reading groups (think Jane Austen Book Club, but usually with more than just the six Austen novels), regional get-togethers with fascinating speakers, entertainment, and delicious food, special screenings for members, and annual general meetings (AGMs) in a different city each year with talks and panels and workshops and English country dance lessons and a banquet and a Regency ball. At my first AGM I thought I'd died and gone to Austen heaven.
8. Watch a film that's so life-affirming and joyful that it merits a place of its own on this list: Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-meets-Hollywood tribute to Pride and Prejudice. It's way better than a year's supply of antidepressants or a gallon of Absolut martinis. Hint: This one merits a party or at least inviting one friend over to watch with you. First, order in Indian food. Then, before popping in the DVD, unearth floaty scarves from your wardrobe or nearest accessory emporium, and keep them on hand to wave around while you dance along with the various musical numbers. Be sure to buy the soundtrack and play it in your car or on your iPod while commuting to work the next day. I feel better just thinking about it.
9. Now that you've got that Indian groove thang going, try English country dancing. Then you can watch all the movies set in Jane Austen's time again, and at the ballroom scenes you can dance along. There are many places to learn English country dancing, and from my experience, the people are friendly and welcome beginners, and there's no need to bring a partner with you. Some dance societies hold regular dances and even annual balls. In Southern California, check out Vintage Dance & History. Nationwide, go to the English Country Dance Webring and the Country Dance and Song Society.
10. Finally, take a trip back in time to Regency England. No, I haven't lost my mind. I have, however, written a novel that will transport you to 1813 England. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is the story of a modern L.A. girl and Austen fan who wakes up one morning as an Englishwoman's in Austen's time. As of April 29, Confessions comes out in paperback, which means the fare to Jane Austen's world becomes even more affordable.
Posted at 12:38 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Emma, English Country Dancing, Film, Food and Drink, Games, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Literature, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Music, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, The Jane Austen Book Club, TV | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
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(This is yet another of my series of guest posts for About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
Discuss Mansfield Park in your book club, and your friends, like most readers, will tend to differ over a variety of points. The most typical one is this: Is the heroine, Fanny Price, a model of moral integrity, or a self-righteous prude? Is the marriage that ends the story (and Austen's stories always end with a marriage) between the right two people? And what's up with that part about the play?
The story begins when nine-year-old Fanny Price is taken from the home of her impoverished parents and moved to the estate of Mansfield Park to be brought up by rich relatives. This is no clear-cut Cinderella story, however. Although there are a couple of mildly wicked stepsisters (Fanny's cousins Maria and Julia) and a stand-in for a wicked stepmother in the form of her Aunt Norris, teenaged Fanny's central nemesis—and rival in love--is the saucy, sassy anti-heroine Mary Crawford.
The object of both Fanny's and Mary's affections is Fanny's cousin Edmund (I know, I know, but in Jane Austen's day one could marry one's cousin without anyone batting an eyelid). Edmund loves Fanny like a cousin, but he is in love with Mary.
Did you ever feel jealous of someone, and at the same time also felt you didn't have the right to be jealous? Fanny, being in an inferior position in the Mansfield Park family and unloved by her birth parents, has deeply rooted self-esteem issues. Mary, on the other hand, walks through life with a serious sense of entitlement. Shouldn't that be enough to put us squarely in the pro-Fanny camp?
Perhaps, but Fanny challenges us at every turn. For example, there is the famous section of the book in which Fanny disapproves of and refuses to participate in a play that her cousins and neighbors are putting on at home for their own amusement. For this part of the story to make the least bit of sense to a modern reader, one needs to understand that this particular choice of home theatricals would be the modern equivalent of a group of teenagers voting to have a wild, high-risk party in their strict parent's house while said parent was out of town.
Despite Fanny's balking at participating in said wild party, we cannot quite dismiss her as a buzz-killing Miss Perfect. After all, she is eaten up with jealousy for a great deal of the book, and as we all know, jealousy is not a pretty emotion. She is also not one to obey those in authority at all costs. In fact, she stands up to the biggest authority figure in her life by refusing to do what she knows in her heart would be wrong, and I'm not talking about acting in a play. (I'll say no more, lest I spoil the book for those who've yet to read it.)
If you've ever had an opinion that your friends considered uncool, and you stuck to it despite ridicule and pressure, you'll find a kindred spirit in Fanny Price, and you'll want her reward to be the man she loves. However, if you're still doing shots with your inner bad girl, you'll be rooting for Mary Crawford to win the object of her, and Fanny's, affections. (By the way, Austen scholar Emily Auerbach pointed out at one of the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual meetings, that several of Mary Crawford's lines of dialogue are astonishingly similar to lines from Jane Austen's own letters.)
To make things more interesting, some readers will want Fanny to be won by Mary's rakish, heartbreaker brother, Henry Crawford, who finds himself unaccountably in love for the first time in his life. Henry doesn't seem to stand a chance with Fanny, who is not only in love with another man, but also has watched in contempt and pity while Henry toyed with Fanny's cousins, the above-mentioned Maria and Julia. It's one big love triangle. Or square. Or heptagon.
Could there possibly be a better Austen novel for book clubs to chew on? And I haven't even touched on the theories about Mansfield Park's antislavery subtext.
In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen is clearly at the height of her storytelling mastery, deftly playing with reader loyalties and expectations while serving up the delicious social satire and suspenseful plotting that keep us coming back for more.
Nevertheless, Mansfield Park presents clear challenges to filmmakers who wish to adapt it, which is perhaps why director Patricia Rozema turned the heroine of her 1999 adaptation into a synthesis of Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, and Jane Austen herself. As for the latest adaptation of Mansfield Park, which airs on PBS's Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 27, I am all anticipation. Let's see what the filmmakers have got up their sleeves this time.
Posted at 04:19 PM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Blogs, Book Clubs, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Regency England | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: 2007 Mansfield Park movie, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Laurie Viera Rigler, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Theatre, Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park
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