Adapting Austen: A Roundup of My Favourite Austen Adaptations

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I’m a sucker for a good Jane Austen adaptation. In fact, I think I’ve seen just about every one in existence, apart from those awkward 1970s BBC ones that are about as exciting as cohabitation with Mr Collins. So, naturally, this week’s Classic Remarks topic is right down my alley. But since I’ve been watching Austen adaptations since I was about thirteen, it’s kind of tough to pick my favourite. So, instead, I’ve decided to group my selections to cover all the bases you might use for evaluating an Austen adaptation. Continue reading

Top Ten Texts Every Lit Major Should Read

I’ve been a lit major for nigh on six years now, and so I thought it only fair that I use this week’s Top Ten Tuesday ‘Back to School’ theme to share some of the wisdom I’ve managed to gain. So I’ve decided to share ten texts I think every new lit major should try and read at some point in their university careers. Don’t be alarmed if these texts at first seem unnecessarily confusing, pointless, and/or completely and utterly useless. That’s more or less precisely how they’re supposed to be. Continue reading

Things I Thought About Before I Watched ‘Shakespeare Lives!’

Shakespeare FireworksThis year, the world is going Shakespeare-mad. Or, at least, that’s what British tourism companies and theatre troupes the world over are hoping as we mark four hundred years since the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, and about four hundred and fifteen years since he wrote the phrase “shuffled off this moral coil”. Last Saturday, the 23rd of April, was the official date, which by all accounts was met with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for football matches or the final episode of The Great British Bake-Off.

In Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company held a two-hour event to celebrate the work of Britain’s best-known playwright. As I settled in to watch a show which featured British theatre royalty (and, indeed, some actual royalty too), I began thinking about the way that Shakespeare has settled into our collective understanding of literature, culture, and art. Continue reading

Am I a Bad Feminist? Bad Feminist (2014), by Roxane Gay

Bad FeministAm I a bad feminist? That’s probably the question a lot of people asked themselves when they saw the title of Roxane Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist (2014). The insidious nature of contemporary sexism – veiled in ancient gendered representations, in advertising and the media, and in the rise of ‘irony’ as a catch-all phrase for dealing with accusations of misogyny – certainly makes it difficult to tell at all times whether sexism is actually happening, whether we’re unconsciously (or even consciously) accepting stereotypes of gender as they are handed to us.

The title of Roxane Gay’s collection of essays instantly intrigued me, because it seemed to be addressing this issue face-on. It seemed to be considering what it means to identify as a feminist in a world where a song about rape (‘Blurred Lines’) can be a chart-topper, and where young women can write on the internet about being perfectly willing to let a man beat them simply because he is a celebrity (which Gay addresses marvellously in an essay entitled ‘Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them’). Existing in this kind of world as a self-identified feminist is tricky enough, but it doesn’t help when we are daily exposed to such content and, even worse, sometimes find ourselves humming the chorus of ‘Smack Ma Bitch Up’ (in case you can’t tell, my taste in music is almost pathetically out of date) without even realising. Continue reading

War, Peace, and a Scandal or Two: War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace 2016Haven’t seen this adaptation yet? Beware of the spoilers!

Another year, another massive costume drama from the BBC.

I spent the latter part of last year nursing a deep but abiding impatience for the premiere of War and Peace, Andrew Davies’ latest adaptation of a classic novel. I was thrilled; not only had I actually already read the source material (which, when the source material happens to be a 1,300 page book, is definitely something to celebrate) but I was, for the first time in my life, actually in the UK at the same time as it premiered, and could therefore avoid the two-year delay which I would have faced were I still back in Australia. Naturally, I was excited. Add to that the fact that Davies was writing the script. Seeing as I’d loved his adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Wives and Daughters, I was pretty sure I’d be pleased with just about anything he decided to do with Tolstoy.

There was, understandably, a lot of hype around this particular adaptation. Big names were involved, budgets were large, and the source material was felt to be particularly timely: the fallout from war, the ruthlessness and carelessness of too-powerful men, and the sense of a society and a world on the brink of major upheaval. Continue reading

This Will be the Life and Death of Me: Reading Stephenie Meyer’s Gender-Swapped Twilight

imageStephenie Meyer’s new offering, Life and Death (2015), is intended to be a kind of addendum to her problematic series about teenage love in the age of vampirism, Twilight (2005). According to Meyer, the story is a kind of fictionalised response to the plethora of accusations of sexism that have been levelled at the Twilight series. By swapping the genders of almost all the characters in the original story, Life and Death is meant to show how problems with gender in the original series are actually problems that can be attributed to the main character’s humanity rather than her femininity.

Life and Death has been branded a lot of things: bungling, lazy, and just plain greedy. Most have greeted it with a rightful degree of cynicism, seeing it as a rather cheap way to make a bit of extra cash and rejuvenate a series that, ten years on, is beginning to look a little tired.
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Why I Re-Read the Twilight Series

TwilightIt’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since the world was first introduced to angsty love triangles, whiny heroines, and vampires that sparkle in the sunlight. It’s hard to believe that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is into the double-digits. It seems like only yesterday that nobody had ever heard of the amusingly named town of Forks, Washington, and the mention of a shirtless Robert Pattinson didn’t fill us all with dread and horror.

So why did I decide to re-read the Twilight series? Couldn’t I have found a more constructive use for my time, like making paper aeroplanes, or teaching myself to draw cartoon iguanas, or learning how to make my own hummus? (Seriously, am I the only person who just cannot seem to get it together on the homemade hummus front?)

The ten-year anniversary of Twilight caught me by surprise. After all, I remember when it came out. I remember reading it. There’s nothing like a little anniversary to make you wonder where the decades go. Still, nostalgia wasn’t the reason I revisited Meyer’s hit book. I wanted to know why people talked about (and still talk about, but less loudly and with a lot less violent gesticulating) these books. More than that, I wanted to know why I – oh boy, here comes the shameful confession – why I loved the book when I first read it, if only for a little while. Continue reading

A Lit Major At The Movies: I Capture The Castle (2003)

I Capture the Castle film posterI Capture The Castle was never going to be an easy film to make. The book is written as the journal of a young girl in 1930s England. The plot is bog-standard, almost on the side of boring (handsome young men come into neighbourhood, pretty young women pursue handsome young men, pairing-up ensues). Considering that the true magic of the book lies in the youthful simplicity and honesty of Cassandra Mortmain’s voice, making a film version seems like a bit of a tricky endeavour.

All this considered, then, the 2003 movie actually does a decent job capturing the tone and style of the book. As you might expect, there are lots of shots of green English landscapes, with the Mortmain’s castle as a centrepiece. Visually, there are some very pretty moments as we explore the English countryside and the recesses of Cassandra’s imagination. Continue reading

Everyone’s Got An Austen: Everybody’s Jane (2011), by Juliette Wells

Everybodys JaneI read this book as part of the Austen in August reading event.

One of the truly curious things about Austen is just how many different incarnations of her there are. In the space of two hundred years, the ghost of Austen has been conjured in many different forms: saint, saviour, genius – and of course, more recently, in a wider and wider variety of guises: lover, detective, even bloodsucking and immortal vampire.

Biographies of Austen, and accounts of her work, frequently try to chip away at the layers and layers of disguises she has been coated with, in an effort to get a little closer to the ‘real’ Austen, to what she ‘really’ thought and ‘really’ wrote. But for me, as for many, the ‘real’ Austen (impossible to ever recover now, try as one might) is sometimes less interesting than the various ideas that people have of her. Partly, because it says a lot about the society they’re living in, and partly because it says a lot about individual desires and experiences. Continue reading

Why Jane Austen? (2011), by Rachel M. Brownstein

Why Jane AustenThis book is #3 on my Austen in August reading list.

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has frequently found themselves, after revealing their appreciation of Austen’s novels, being asked that impertinent question, the one that drives just about every fan of the famous writer up the wall: ‘Why Jane Austen?’.

It drives us crazy because it is so often difficult to put into words why we read – and love – Austen’s novels. And it’s difficult, too, because the question implies that there is little reason for people in the modern world to be reading two hundred year old ‘love stories’. The question can be delivered in a tone of genuine curiosity or, alternatively, of resounding condemnation (‘Why Jane Austen? Wasn’t she that spinster woman who wrote books about women falling in love because she was trying to fill some sort of void?’ Incidentally, these are the ones I’d dearly love to reply to by returning the favour, and stuffing the particularly gaping void that is their mouth with passing vol-au-vents. But since I don’t want to be thrown out of the first annual meeting for the local Wine and Cheese club for assaulting one of my fellow gastronomes, I desist). Continue reading