Synopses & Reviews
Nearly two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is one of the most widely read and beloved English novelists of any era. Writing and publishing anonymously during her lifetime, the woman responsible for some of the most enduring characters (and couples) of modern romantic literature -- including Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley -- was credited only as "A Lady" on the title pages of her novels.
It was not until her nephew published a memoir of his "dear Aunt Jane" more than five decades after her death that she became widely known. From then on, her fame only grew, and fans and devotees, so-called Janeites, soon obsessed over and idolized her. Austen soon found an appreciative audience not only of readers but also of academics, whose scholarship legitimated and secured her place in the canon of Western literature. Today, Austen's work is still assigned in courses, obsessed over by readers young and old, parodied and parroted, and adapted for films.
Were she alive today, Austen might not recognize some of the work her novels have inspired, such as a retelling of Sense and Sensibility featuring sea monsters, Internet fan fiction, or a twelve-foot statue of a wet-shirted Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy depicting a scene that doesn't even appear in her novel. But like any great art that endures and excites long after it is made, Austen's novels are inextricable from the culture they have created. Essential reading for Austen's legions of admirers, Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen collects essays from writers and critics that consider the culture surrounding Austen's novels.
With warmth and humor, lifelong Janeite Deborah Yaffe opens the door on the quirky, thriving subculture of Jane Austen fandom.
What is it about Jane Austen and her books that inspires such a devoted, diverse fan base? So wondered Deborah Yaffe, as she set out to investigate the zeal Austen has kindled and the remarkable cross-section of lives she has touched.
There's the Florida lawyer who is pursuing a byzantine theory about hidden subtexts in the novels, the writer of Austen fan fiction who found her own Mr. Darcy while reimagining Pride and Prejudice, and the lit professor whose roller derby nom de skate is Stone Cold Jane Austen. Yaffe goes where Janeites gather en masse, attending the lectures and dress-up ball at the Jane Austen Society of North Americas annual conference, and joining a pilgrimage to historic sites across the pond.
Ultimately, the rich diversity of the Janeites brings Yaffe back to the books themselves. The depth and complexity of Austens writing unite readers in a vibrant literary community that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a Jane Austen novel, and that reflects the nature of fans everywhere.
For anyone who has ever loved a Jane Austen novel, a warm and witty look at the passionate, thriving world of Austen fandom
They walk among us in their bonnets and Empire-waist gowns, clutching their souvenir tote bags and battered paperbacks: the Janeites, Jane Austens legion of devoted fans. Who are these obsessed admirers, whose passion has transformed Austen from classic novelist to pop-culture phenomenon? Deborah Yaffe, journalist and Janeite, sets out to answer this question, exploring the remarkable endurance of Austens stories, the unusual zeal that their author inspires, and the striking cross-section of lives she has touched.
Along the way, Yaffe meets a Florida lawyer with a byzantine theory about hidden subtexts in the novels, a writer of Austen fan fiction who found her own Mr. Darcy while reimagining Pride and Prejudice, and a lit professor whose roller-derby nom de skate is Stone Cold Jane Austen. Yaffe goes where Janeites gather, joining a pilgrimage to historic sites in Britain, chatting online with fellow fans, and attending the annual ball of the Jane Austen Society of North America—in period costume. Part chronicle of a vibrant literary community, part memoir of a lifelong love, Among the Janeites is a funny, touching meditation on the nature of fandom.
About the Author
Deborah Yaffe worked as a newspaper reporter in New Jersey and California for more than thirteen years covering education, the law and state government. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, her two children, and her Jane Austen Action Figure.