Jane Austen as Cult Fiction

I came across this article and found it pretty amusing. Thought you might enjoy it as well.

Jane Austen inspires vicious feuds among her hordes of admirers

by Richard Beck  September 19, 2012

The most entertaining episode in western literature’s 200-year-long fight over who loves Jane Austen most took place in 1940, when a psychiatrist and literary critic named DW Harding published an essay called “Regulated Hatred: An Aspect of the Work of Jane Austen.” His argument was simple: “[Jane Austen’s] books are, as she meant them to be, read and enjoyed by precisely the sort of people whom she disliked.” Whether this is an accurate description of Austen’s own feelings towards her imagined readership (I don’t think it is), “regulated hatred” is a perfect name for the feelings Austen lovers often bear towards one another. “Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen,” said Virginia Woolf, “is aware… that there are 25 elderly gentlemen living in the neighbourhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult to the chastity of their Aunts.”

Almost a century has elapsed since then, but Austen lovers have not grown thicker skins. They accuse one another of “misreading” Austen, of failing to appreciate her subtle engagement with social history, or of twisting Austen’s own necessarily perfect novels to suit some selfish political or professional need. In August 1995, the London Review of Books ran an essay by the Stanford professor Terry Castle which may or may not have implied that Austen harboured homosexual feelings for her sister Cassandra. They were publishing angry letters about the piece until the end of November.

The year 1995 also saw the first airing of the BBC’s now-canonical television adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, setting off a renewed mania for “Janeism” that has not let up since. Now we have a new slate of books: Elizabeth Kantor’s extended dating advice column, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After; Claudia L Johnson’s rigorous history of Austen fandom, Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures; and John Mullan’s gentle and appreciative What Matters in Jane Austen? It is a varied set of works, in subject, tone, and quality alike. What accounts for all of them?

…Jane Austen remains not only well-read but culturally present and alive to an extent that other classic novelists (excepting Dickens) do not. It is worth understanding why, not so much in order to appreciate Austen more deeply but in order to see what cultural life the novel may still have in it.

… In the Victorian era, Tories who felt queasy about the cultural effects of industrialisation praised Austen for documenting a time of quiet, domestic triumph, when England’s best families “vegetated quietly on a fixed income.” In 1900, the Church of England tried to memorialise this domestic and pious version of Austen by installing a stained glass window honouring her in Winchester Cathedral, where she had been buried years before. After its unveiling, the Winchester Diocesan Chronicle announced that the “object of the figures and text was to illustrate the high moral and religious teaching” of Austen’s writing. The “moral” part is plausible, but as for “religious,” apparently nobody told the editors of the Winchester Diocesan Chronicle that Mr Collins, the stupidest person in Pride and Prejudice and one of the great figures of ridicule in English fiction, is a clergyman. In any case, the Victorian era’s Austen did not last long. After 1914 the emphasis shifted, and suddenly it was Austen’s detachment and glinting irony that people admired, as Britain’s sensibility was reshaped by horrors nobody had previously imagined.

Read the rest of the article here: Cult leader.

History A'la Carte 10-11-12

I got to blog today at English Historical Fiction Authors. Stop by and take a look. Lots of great articles there.

Mistress of the Manor-what did she do all day?

By Maria Grace

Period dramas have left many of us with the notion that ladies of the landed gentry in the Regency era had little to do but dress in lovely gowns, embroider and gossip.  Reality could not be farther from this image. In general, both masters and mistresses of the house did a great deal of work around the estate, often working alongside the servants in the efforts to get everything done.

Labors tended to be divided along gender lines. So much so that single men sought female relatives to manage their households. Bachelors looked to sister or nieces while widowers often called upon daughters or the dead wife’s kin.  So, even if a woman did not marry, there was a very strong possibility she might take on the responsibilities of a household sometime in her lifetime.  Gentlemen tended to respect the household mistress’ authority; her contributions to the home had worth equal to his.


And now, a  new installment of History a’la Carte for your Thursday enjoyment. I am always amazed to find out how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

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Get to know Cover Artist Rebecca Young

You’ve seen and admired her work, now get to know cover designer and graphic artist, Rebecca Young.

When did you first start designing? What were your earliest projects? What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?

I have always been into art. In middle school I spent most of my freetime helping in the art room and took whatever art summer camps I could. I started working with graphic design at a camp in 6th grade but didn’t get really into it until my freshman year of college. My first project was a book I published on Lulu during high school of one of my best friends poems and stories. It was a christmas present and only was shown to our friends, but it made me realize that it was possible to design real books. After that I started working with the director at The Young Shakespeare Players(the theatre I am involved in) with getting his first book published. I mainly did formatting on that but it was how I learned about all the different ways to self-publish. I truly started my business this spring after many pushes from my wonderful mother(I should really learn to listen to her the first time she says things!) and started off working with some of the Austen Authors. Continue reading

#8: Top 10 reasons editing takes so long

#8 No letters left on my keyboards

I have two keyboards, the one on my lap top, below and my external ergonomic on above.  Both of them are battle scarred.  The ergonomic one lost most of the letters quite a while ago.  The laptop keyboard has scars form my fingernails on many of the keys. Dearest husband still can’t believe I could do that to the keys.  He has decided that for my next laptop I MUST get a silicon skin for the keyboard so this doesn’t happen again.

The keys still work, but I have to be really careful with the ergonomic one to make sure I get my hands in the right spot or I get some really interesting results.And I can’t type one handed on the keyboard since I can’t see what the letters are as I type.

The upside is that no one wants to borrow my stuff, so that isn’t one of the top ten reasons why editing takes so long.

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Get to know M.M. Bennetts

I’d like to introduce my special guest this week M.M. Bennetts.

  • When did you first start writing?
Oh dear!  In school, when my teachers demanded it, and only then.
I started writing poetry when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and was a published poet by the time I was eighteen.  But I was first and foremost a pianist–my life consisted of Beethoven and Chopin from the time I was eight.
While I was working on my Masters at St. Andrews, I did start to write prose–that is to say ‘unassigned’ prose–and start to think ‘on the page’ about what it must have been like to live during the early 19th century, but that was chiefly because I was bored and had read all the historical fiction that they had in the local bookshops.
It wasn’t until later, when I was scheduled to compete in this rather significant piano competition, that I had to seriously consider what else I might do with myself if I were not to have a career in music.  I remember contemplating the required music–there was this piece by Schumann and I took a look and thought, “I’m not learning that!”  If you can imagine it, it was just pages and pages of black notes with very little white in between…I just thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  So I pulled out.  It was a stupid and idle thing to think and do, particularly as I had all the rest of the competition pieces in my repertoire, but it’s what I did.
Then I knocked about for a bit, doing this and that, and finally a friend said, “Look, I think you should be reviewing books–nobody reads as much or as fast as you…”  He knew a book editor and got us together and it went from there… Continue reading

Did High School English Make You Hate Reading

Ironically, I’ve had this conversation at the dinner table with my three teenaged budding engineers.  They love to read, but HATE the books for their English class.

I was pointed to this article recently.  It makes some interesting points.  I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but there is definitely some food for thought here.  What do you think?

Michael Pacher. St. Wolfgang and the Devil

Michael Pacher. St. Wolfgang and the Devil

4 Ways High School Makes You Hate Reading

By: Christina H

I can’t be the only one who feels like the schools pulled a sort of bait-and-switch job on us when it came to reading. When I was in elementary school, they went to a lot of trouble to make sure we thought reading was fun, with bookmobiles and read-a-thons and tons of fun books about mice and motorcycles and phantom tollbooths…

That was the bait. In junior high and high school, they made the switch. I guess they heard about how drug dealers give you free doses of the good stuff until you are addicted, and then once you are hooked, they start cutting it with 50 percent baby powder or something…

So one summer you are reading A Wrinkle in Time or Fantastic Mr. Fox or whatever, and then you show up for your first day of school and BAM, The Scarlet Letter. And get on that pronto, kid, because we are going to talk about metaphors and symbolism in Chapter 1 tomorrow. I opened these books thinking they would be great and rewarding, like the books I was used to, but it was like biting into a delicious-looking cake and finding a bear trap. After my face had been so destroyed by so many bear traps (to continue the metaphor) that the greatest reconstructive surgeon in the world could do nothing to save it, I stopped looking at books as wonderful presents I couldn’t wait to open and started looking at them with a sort of low-level PTSD.

Let me be clear: I still love reading good books, but since experience has taught me that there’s about a 95 percent chance that a random (adult) book I pick up is going to be unenjoyable, I spend more time researching a book before I read it than I spent researching my house before I bought it. It’s crazy to have to be so scared and wary of something I used to look forward to so much.

I think this kind of experience is part of why only 50 percent of American adults have read any novel, short story, poem or play in the past year, and only 54 percent have read any kind of book at all that wasn’t required…

And as a disclaimer, I know there’s going to be people out there who loved The Scarlet Letter or A Separate Peace or what have you and feel like they got a lot out of it, and teachers who manage to get kids really engaged in discussing literature, and that is cool, but I don’t think that’s the common experience. Here are the sorts of things I think are going on a lot more often:

#4. High School Required Reading Sucks

The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Ethan Frome, Walden, Heart of Darkness, Madame Bovary, The Catcher in the Rye and The Sun Also Rises all suck. OK, that’s just my opinion, but the average high school student — … the average human being — will probably agree on a bunch of those at least.

What really gets my goat is when people act like this is our problem. They say the reason we don’t like these books is because we don’t get it…

#3. You’re Not Allowed to Talk Smack About the Books

Even if you love literature and had a pretty good high school reading experience, you probably can agree that at least one book you were asked to read (in your opinion) sucked. There might be excessive exposition, laughable imagery, characters intended to be sympathetic who are grating or characters intended to be grating who are so grating that you can’t pay attention to the story (Holden Caulfield).

There are very few classrooms where you are encouraged to express this point of view, because I think a lot of teachers feel like if you admit to the book not being that great, then you open yourself up to the kids arguing that they shouldn’t have to read it. I don’t think it has to go there. I think teaching well-reasoned smack talk has a lot of value…

#2. Anything Fun Is Too Shallow

…The argument is that fun and popular books are too shallow to get much out of. They’re not going to have as many themes, or new vocabulary words, or symbols, or unusual storytelling techniques as a classic novel. And that’s probably true in a lot of cases. The point they’re missing here is that most high school classes never even get close to digging out all the analyzable stuff from a book, because of time limits or limits of the students’ reading level…

#1. Enjoy Reading? Preposterous!

There is a point in time where a lot of adults stop telling kids that reading is fun and start telling them that reading should be work. That if you’re not improving your mind and broadening your horizons, reading that book is just a waste of your time. …

And this teacher feels like kids should not waste their summers reading The Hunger Games because they don’t gain much “verbal and world knowledge,” recommending The Red Badge of Courage and a bunch of nonfiction books about the horrors experienced by real people in other times and places, like Hiroshima, well-known as a great summer romp. These are really valuable books, and kids should have some idea about the world around them, but seriously, even in the summer, they can’t read a book just for fun?

She says: “Summer assignments should be about why we need to learn and why we need to talk about what we think.” Sure, that’s an important lesson that needs to be taught at some point, but when is there time for them to learn the other important lesson: Reading is something you can also do for fun, when you are taking a break from learning? You can’t just tell people that and hope they remember it when they graduate and finally have time for it. That’s something they need to learn by doing it and experiencing the fun…

As for me, I haven’t given up on reading. I’m still looking for good books to read, but I’ve been burned so much by recommendations that I’ve instituted a new procedure for the approval of any new reading material. I will require at least five notarized affidavits from me-certified book evaluators who give the book at least 4 out of 5 stars in three major evaluation categories (pacing, character development and amount of dinosaurs, for example) before I will read it. Certification is a fairly straightforward process involving an application in which you list your favorite books and other media and a brief essay describing what you think I am looking for in a book. If your application is satisfactory, it will be followed by two phone interviews. Certification can be revoked at any time if evidence surfaces of you reading Fifty Shades of Grey or other disqualifying material unless you can submit witness statements from two independent evaluators testifying that you were only reading it so you could write jokes about it. This might sound like a great deal of trouble to recommend a book, but think about what’s at stake, man. I could be bored for several hours! Who wants that on their hands?

History A'la Carte 10-4-12

A new installment of History a’la Carte for your Thursday enjoyment. I am always amazed to find out how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.


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From Portreath to Scorrier, the Railway before the Train

Please Welcome David W. Wilkins as he comes by to talk about some railway history.

Guest post by David W Wilkins

The research for The End of the World is something of a chicken and egg story. I should imagine that many tales that end up as novels have similar births. One thought leads to another and then a third and more. Finally a story of plot begins to germinate and then research follows.

For The End of the World I had long had an interest in Steam Engines. And then the age of locomotives that was shortly to come. Near the end of the Regency. But as I did research without thought to writing a Regency Romance I came across this line on the Wikipedia, ‘In 1809 a horse drawn tramway was constructed between Portreath and Scorrier…’

Laying down railway tracks before we even thought to create a train engine. Why? How?

The distances here are from Portreath to Scorrier not five miles, so not too excessively far, but certainly a novel concept. Why not have my hero be the man who starts the use of such, for before one puts carts on rail tracks, it is donkeys, mules, carting the ore to Portreath.

Still horse power to cart the output to the ships for transport, but faster, better, smarter. The call of the industrial age on the horizon.

R.F. Delderfield in God is an Englishman has a notion that the cartage business has merit, I remembered from reading over 20 years ago. There was a way to do things faster, better, cheaper.  So that was one of the skills of my hero, Samuel Billingsly Lynchhammer.

I delved into the Cornwall mining industry during the Regency, setting our tale near the end of the period of the Napoleonic war. Samuel’s father and brother were to be serving naval officers.

Some of the other influences on the story for The End of the World, an allusion to Cornwall being the End of the World, were decidedly American. There is an old Troy Donahue/Karl Malden movie called Parrish. They grew tobacco in Connecticut instead of mining copper in Cornwall.

Copper mining had begun to surpass tin mining at this time in which I set my story and from 1819 to 1840 just the Consolidated mine alone yielded 300,000 tonnes which sold for over ₤2 million. Using some of the research that I did on currency, that would be about $4 billion today. And that is one large mine, but only one mine in the area. If one mine is doing $200 million a year, then one can see that these are lucrative businesses for the aristocracy to own.

The Gwennap area of Cornwall would become the ‘ “Copper Kingdom” and then the richest known mineralised area in the world.’

In 1842 at the Tresavean Mine, in Lanner near Redruth, very close to where my story takes place, the first ever man-engine was installed. This was the height of Cornwall copper mining. So setting the scene 30 years before, when the first rail line is installed and Steam Engines are used to pump the water out of the mines, so the miners won’t drown are plot points for the The End of the World.

In 1824, the rails were made into an actual railway from Redruth to Chasewater.


Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. His most recent work include the humorous spoof, Jane Austen and Ghosts, a story of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie and  Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press

Read his blog  The Things That Catch My Eye which hosts the Regency Lexicon and the current work in progress, the  Regency Timeline .

Follow him on Twitter at @DWWilkin  and  at Pinterest Regency-Era

Jane Austen game now on Facebook

I must confess, I have avoided Facebook games. I ready don’t have enough hours in the day to get done everything I need to do.

BUT this one has me tempted. Lauren Miller posts a great overview of the game. What do you think, any takers?

Jane Austen Game Arrives on Facebook

September 10, 2012 | Posted by Lauren Miller

My goodness, what newfangled notions this BBC has of engaging readers!

As I sit at my writing desk, I turned to my dictionary to query the correct spelling of Hunsford, the dear little parish of my friend, Mrs. Collins, and what should I see in the margins of the page?

Twas an advertisement for that lady writer, Miss Austen. She seems to have misplaced her creations who have crossed over into one another’s stories of all things. Miss Austen needs to keep her characters in check or who knows what manner of mischief they will find themselves in.

I suppose the only Christian thing to do would be to assist Miss Austen in the recovery of her characters and set things back to rights. But my heavens! It’s a mystery indeed…

Rogues and Romance is the latest hidden objects game on Facebook with a twist — it stars your favorite characters from Jane Austen’s beloved novels.

The game structure is similar in design to other hidden object games (ex: Blackwood and Bell Mysteries). In order to solve the game, you must complete all the mini-quests which represent stages of progress in the game (ex: like chapters of a story).

Read the rest at:  Lauren Miller | Author of Historical and Spec Fiction | Jane Austen Game Arrives on Facebook.