Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Making of Jane Austen: The Creation of a Cultural Icon


Her novels were published anonymously when novels were still considered suspect, thought to arouse women's passions. She was presented as a spinster leading an uneventful life, with little knowledge of the world. The Victorians were not impressed by her and Charlotte Bronte detested her novels.

How did Jane Austen become the influential celebrity so important that the Bank of England will celebrate her 200th birthday by printing her image on 10-pound notes and the Royal Mint will portray her on a coin?

The Royal Mint described the novelist in its official statement as “a revolutionary romantic,” adding:“The Jane Austen 2017 £2 coin celebrates one of the best-loved authors in the world, 200 years after her death.

Jane died in 1817 after publishing four books; two more books were published posthumously. Her family idealized Jane as a pious maiden aunt.

Fast forward a hundred years and Suffragettes put Jane Austen on banners and feminists turned her into a role model.

Jump another hundred years and we have Jane Austen coloring books and fan fiction.
Pride and Prejudice Paper Dolls from Dover Publications
In The Making of Jane Austen scholar Devoney Looser traces how Austen was 'made' through her illustrators, the dramatization and adaptation of her novels in plays, movies, and television, the political employment of Austen, and finally through how her novels were used in education.

I became a Janite in 1978 in an honors class at Temple University. Guided by Professor Toby Olshin our small class read all of Austen's novels, juvenilia. letters, and the novels that influenced her. We came to understand Austen's social, material, and political world. Before taking this course no teacher had ever required me to read Austen and she had no popular culture representation.
Jane Austen Action Figure
I appreciated reading this book and enjoyed its approach showing how Austen became a culture heroine. I especially enjoyed learning about her early illustrators and how their choices impacted readers understanding. New to me was Austen's use in politics, a fascinating study.
Sense and Sensibility, 1913 Little, Brown and Company edition
copyright 1898 by Robert Brothers.
Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett
I have several sets of Austen's complete works, including a 1913 edition from Little, Brown, and Company. Illustrations by Edmund H. Garrett show period fashions for Austen's time. Many Victorian illustrators, and even the Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson movie version, put the characters in mid-19th c dress.
Sense and Sensibility,
1910 Little, Brown and Company edition
copyright 1898 by Robert Brothers.
Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett
Looser calls illustrator Hugh Thomson 'the Colin Firth of Austen-inspired book illustration." The Thomson edition ' is often called "Cranfordized," referring to the commercially successful novel Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell which Thomson also illustrated.
The Illustrated Pride and Prejudice Companion
illustrations by Hugh Thomson
Dover Publications
Detail from Pride and Prejudice Story Book Quilt
by Nancy A. Bekofske
I adopted a Hugh Thomson illustration from Emma
for Darcy's proposal 
Hugh Thomson illustration from Emma
Thomson picked up on the humor in Austen's novels and usually had the characters in social settings.

One of his competitors was Charles Brock. I adapted several Brock illustrations for my Pride and Prejudice Story Book Quilt.

Detail from Pride and Prejudice Story Book Quilt
by Nancy A. Bekofske.
She's tolerable... adapted from an illustration by Charles E Brock

Detail Pride and Prejudice Story Book by Nancy A. Bekofske.
Mr. Collins introduces himself to Darcy.
Based on an illustration by Charles E. Brock.
Charles Brock illustration
The Making of Jane Austen is a fascinating study. I would not recommend the book to the casual reader who wants entertainment over intelligent content. The Appendix includes Further Reading suggestions. The Notes and Bibliography are extensive.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Pride and Prejudice Story Book Quilt by Nancy A Bekofske

The Making of Jane Austen
by Devoney Looser
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date: June 25, 2017
Hardcover | 304 pages |
$29.95 USD, £22.00 GBP
ISBN 9781421422824, 1421422824
Regency Redwork, based on Pride and Prejudice
by Nancy A. Bekofske