Jane Austen discussion

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General Discussion > Jane Austen's impact on the modern world?

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message 1: by JaneAusten24 (new)

JaneAusten24 | 1 comments Hi all,
Recently, I have come across a dilemma that I feel many of you Janeites may be able to relate to. When discussing authors and their effect on the modern world, I have been told that Jane Austen is in fact not profound or influential in today's world. At first, I was a little offended ( as I'm sure many of you will be :) ), but then when I tried to argue against it I struggled to find a strong enough argument, or at least describe to others what an amazing woman she was etc. I was wondering what others thought of this, if they have experienced it and if others believe, as I do, that our Austen has influenced modern society?


message 2: by Tongtong (new)

Tongtong (KimttTan) | 3 comments in the end of Jojo Moyes' 'me before you' do
mention how jane Austen 'help' emma Thompson when she facing her marriage dilemma. for me, it is doesn't matter people don't understand why we like something that they don't. because they can't feel what we had feel and benefit from it. they maybe don't have this fortune. usually argue can't change their mind, they can change their mind only when they understand it.


message 3: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 258 comments I think that to claim that Jane Austen doesn't affect the modern world is like saying Dickens or Homer don't affect the modern world. What impact are we measuring here? Culturally speaking, all three were hugely influential. Her style was imitated and elaborated upon by the authors that followed her to such an extent that it would be impossible to say where her influence ends. It's pretty much everywhere. Our standard romantic tropes basically all originate in her novels. She wrote so little, comparatively, and it influences as today so much.

I bet there's an English lit major somewhere in the group who can be more specific, but I do think that the charge that she isn't influential is a little bit absurd. Certainly on Western culture, she had an enormous impact.


message 4: by Noe (new)

Noe There are different ways of measuring the impact an author has had on the modern world. It would not be fair to compare Jane Austen's impact next to Harriet Beecher Stowe's who wrote 'Uncle Toms Cabin' causing many to view slavery in a whole new light. But it would be fair to say Shakespeare did not have such an influence as that either. Considering she only wrote 6 novels 200 years ago and today people reference her and her works often as they face circumstances similar to those she wrote about, I don't see how a writer gets any more relevant than that.


message 5: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 600 comments Seeing as how the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC just had a big exhibit on the cult of celebrity of Shakespeare and Jane Austen, I'd say this statement is incorrect. People wouldn't continue to read/watch, update and spin-off her stories if they didn't impact anyone.

Jane's biggest impact though can be attributed to Andrew Davies sexing up his adaptations (Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt). The films spawned a Jane Austen brand. Those of us who bother to read the books know the books go beyond the romance and give us important truths we can recognize in ourselves and others.


message 6: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 258 comments But more specifically, Austen is actually a literary innovator and revolutionary. She perfected the style of free indirect speech (in which the thoughts of the protagonist mingle with the speech of the narrator). The experimental nature of Emma -- in which we are invited to share the protagonists delusions, rather than be lectured by the narrator about them from the beginning -- is a forerunner of the experimental novels that followed (see Henry James or Proust). I have also read somewhere that Emma might have been the first mystery writing - in which the author scattered clues about an event that occurred and then gave a reveal at the end. But in less academic terms, just read the stuff that was written before Austen and during her lifetime. There is a marked difference. Her writing stood out. Massively. To the point where we read her novels today, en masse, whereas other writers from her time and before much less so. Why do we do that? Why do people of all walks of life, and not just literary critics and English majors, read her novels in the 21st century? Obviously it's because her writing still resonates. Even if society has changed and marriage is no longer the be-all and end-all of womanhood in the western world, she still managed to speak some universal truth in her books, which makes us want to go back to her.


message 7: by Noe (new)

Noe Emilia wrote: "But more specifically, Austen is actually a literary innovator and revolutionary. She perfected the style of free indirect speech (in which the thoughts of the protagonist mingle with the speech of..."
I'm glad someone as articulate as you and PoohBear made your comments. You certainly put things better than I did.


message 8: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 600 comments Emilia's comments are completely accurate. Think of what literature would be like without Austen?


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