Jane AustenAugust has clearly been Jane Austen month for me. First, I read Pamela Aidan’s Darcy trilogy. Then I taught my favorite Austen novel in my Woman & Literature class, Persuasion. I also read Susan Kaye’s None But You, a rewriting of Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view. (I’ll blog about that novel in the next few days.) And finally, I saw Becoming Jane. I’m not sure I could get more Austen into one month!

I’ve always loved Persuasion. I can’t now remember when I first read it, but I assume it must have been in college. Whenever it was, I immediately identified with Anne Elliott. I’m not entirely sure why — I clearly wasn’t an aging woman still in love with the man who proposed to me seven years before! But something about her seemed to sum up my feelings as a young gay man too scared to fully come out yet. I’ve taught the novel twice since coming to OU. The first time was in a survey of eighteenth-century lit. I don’t think most of the students cared much for it. More of my students this summer seemed to like it, especially compared to Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, which not a novel I’m likely to teach again anytime soon.

My earliest memory of being aware of Austen was seeing the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. My parents like old black and white movies, so we watched this one from time to time. I loved it. Here’s a good clip:

Then I actually read the book. I had no idea that Elizabeth visited Pemberley! Last summer, I had my students read the novel and then watch both the 1940 version and the 2005 film. They then wrote a paper on which version they think best captured the essence of the novel. I have to say that, despite its obvious problems, I love the romanticism of the 2005 film, as in this clip:

It’s beautiful to watch, and I’ve gotten used to the dreadful ending. (Like most people, I think that the 1995 miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice is by far the best adaptation. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are perfect as Darcy and Elizabeth.)

I even like the 1996 version of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam, though Northam doesn’t quite match my own image of Mr. Knightley. He doesn’t seem quite manly enough. But it’s a good adaptation, Paltrow is great in it, and Toni Collette is adorable. Here’s a taste:

I have to admit that I’ve never really liked Sense and Sensibility as a novel. I’ve always found it difficult to get into. Some of my friends who love Austen rank it among her best, and scholars are always interested in it — after all, it did inspire Eve Sedgwick’s brilliant essay, “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl.” I want to like it, but I just never actually have. Maybe next summer I’ll read Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. I’ve never read the former.

But now the time has come to put Austen back on the shelf. Classes start next week, and I’ll have plenty of work to do. For entertaining me for the month of August, Jane Austen is my hottie of the month.

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