“What’s the Big Deal About Jane Austen?” the BBC Asks

BBC asks, “What’s all the fuss with Jane Austen anyway?” They invited scholars and fans to chime in. Some praise her deceptive “simplicity” (“Making her novel work on different levels means people can take what they need from them”), but others criticize her reliance on “manor houses, daughters, and weddings.” Says Celia Brayfield: “There is no poverty in her novels, no corruption, ambition, wickedness or war. Yes her wit is enchanting and her human observations enduringly accurate, but the world she writes about is so tiny. I find it claustrophobic.”

Critics also excoriate the Austen “brand” created by all the dippy, lightweight movies adapted from her novels. Kathryn Hughes writes in The Guardian, “What all these one-note adaptations miss is that Austen’s books are really not about love, but money…Economic survival among the struggling middle classes is, as all those girls with low-cut gowns and young men in tight trousers soon discover, a difficult, even savage, business in which one wrong move can ruin your chances of a nice life.”

Also: an earlier article the BBC did about Austen’s “enduring appeal.”

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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