‘Janeites’ Create Jane Austen 2.0

Arden Dale and Mary Pilon unveil an unlikely subculture for the Wall Street Journal:

Ben Kemper, 19, plans to wear a frock coat with cuffs to the annual Jane Austen birthday tea in Boise, Idaho, on Saturday.

The outfit will be “the whole shebang,” says Mr. Kemper, who hopes to scare up some yard work so he can pay for the new threads. He says his costume may include riding boots, a cane, gloves and a buttoned vest.

Mr. Kemper is among an unlikely set of fans of the long-dead Ms. Austen—young people. The English novelist best known for “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility” has been dead since 1817, yet she is drawing a cultish pack of young people, especially young women, known as “Janeites” who are dedicated to celebrating all things Austen.

The appeal? Ms. Austen’s tales of courtship and manners resonate with dating-obsessed and social-media-savvy 21st-century youths, says Nili Olay, regional coordinator for the New York Metro chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America, or JASNA.

Other renowned English authors aren’t so posthumously popular—at least among the Web set. Ms. Austen counts roughly 89,000 fans on Facebook, compared with 45,000 for Charles Dickens, and just 9,000 for the Brontë sisters.

Young women, in particular, find meaning in Ms. Austen’s work, according to Joan Klingel Ray, author of “Jane Austen for Dummies.” They may be “trying to figure out how to find Mr. Right,” says Ms. Ray, an English professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “You can almost vicariously experience this through her heroines.”…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

, , , , ,

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Actually, if you think back to the specific historical / economic context of Jane Austen in Regency Britain, the whole thing makes sense.

    In some ways the early 1800’s was the apex of the power and influence of the British aristocracy. Wellington had just defeated Napoleon, the big neo-Palladian country houses were sprouting up like mushrooms, Constable is busy mythologizing the bucolic landscape, etc., etc.

    Yeah there was some industrial unrest going on around the edges, but these were just the very earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, and working class unrest wouldn’t reach a head until late in the Victorian era. Even a writer as morally and socially conscious as Jane is able only to attack the gross hypocritical inequalities of the era in the limenal spaces of romantic and intra-familial relationships–never to make outright challenges to the fundamental political or economic order.

    In a way 21st century Jane-ites are also wanting to have it both ways–enjoy the prestige and physical comforts of the “American Century”, while in a very, very limited way, a way that plays with the borders of self-parody, actually, challenge the patriarchal social and sexual conventions that characterized it.

    I guess that sounds like a depressing repudiation of the new wave Jane-ites. But to be honest, I really liked the mash-up novels, too. They were pretty funny.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Actually, if you think back to the specific historical / economic context of Jane Austen in Regency Britain, the whole thing makes sense.

    In some ways the early 1800’s was the apex of the power and influence of the British aristocracy. Wellington had just defeated Napoleon, the big neo-Palladian country houses were sprouting up like mushrooms, Constable is busy mythologizing the bucolic landscape, etc., etc.

    Yeah there was some industrial unrest going on around the edges, but these were just the very earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, and working class unrest wouldn’t reach a head until late in the Victorian era. Even a writer as morally and socially conscious as Jane is able only to attack the gross hypocritical inequalities of the era in the limenal spaces of romantic and intra-familial relationships–never to make outright challenges to the fundamental political or economic order.

    In a way 21st century Jane-ites are also wanting to have it both ways–enjoy the prestige and physical comforts of the “American Century”, while in a very, very limited way, a way that plays with the borders of self-parody, actually, challenge the patriarchal social and sexual conventions that characterized it.

    I guess that sounds like a depressing repudiation of the new wave Jane-ites. But to be honest, I really liked the mash-up novels, too. They were pretty funny.

  • Haystack

    In my opinion, one Bronte novel is worth the entire collected works of Jane Austen.

    The Brontes wrote from the margins. Charlotte and Anne were governesses. All three led tragic, utterly unglamorous lives spent catering to the needs of other people–often, feather-brained aristocrats like Jane Austen’s heroines.Agnes Grey, for example, is the semi-autobiographical story of a governess who longs to be noticed while the rich girls she serves twist men around their fingers just for sport. The Brontes wrote about loneliness, humiliation, loss and alienation; Jane Austen wrote about “courtship and manners” among a privileged leisure class. Big whoop.

    To describe Austen’s fans as “dating-obsessed and social-media-savvy 21st-century youths” strikes me as a polite way of saying “spoiled kids who spend all their time tweeting about which boy they like.” In that case, it’s not surprising that they’d find Jane Eyre too “antiquated” to for their tastes.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I tried to like this. But since I switched browers it seems most of my likes aren’t taking. Don’t know why.

      Anyhow, in this connection, it may be worth reminding people that the Brontes came from an ‘ethnic’ background–their father was a protestant, true, but his people were for centuries poets in the native Irish community of Co. Down. Originally known as O Proinntigh.

      So while Austen’s father had a roughly similar church position as Patrick Bronte, maybe the residual anti-Irish prejudice gave the Bronte girls a little more distance and objectivity re: the dysfunctional aspects of English society.

      • Haystack

        Thanks, I’ve been noticing that my comments haven’t been getting nearly as many likes as I think they should. Now I know why. *grins*

        It’s true that they had Irish ancestry, but ethnicity isn’t a major theme of any of their novels. I think the class distinction more than anything else contributes to the difference in perspective. Jane Austen was a lady–she was educated, received a literary apprenticeship, had leisure time, etc. By contrast, Jane Eyre was written in between peeling potatoes. Austen writes from the perspective of the leisure class; the Brontes write from the perspective of those who made that leisure possible.

        It would be interesting to know what the Brontes themselves thought of Austen.

  • Haystack

    In my opinion, one Bronte novel is worth the entire collected works of Jane Austen.

    The Brontes wrote from the margins. Charlotte and Anne were governesses. All three led tragic, utterly unglamorous lives spent catering to the needs of other people–often, feather-brained aristocrats like Jane Austen’s heroines.Agnes Grey, for example, is the semi-autobiographical story of a governess who longs to be noticed while the rich girls she serves twist men around their fingers just for sport. The Brontes wrote about loneliness, humiliation, loss and alienation; Jane Austen wrote about “courtship and manners” among a privileged leisure class. Big whoop.

    To describe Austen’s fans as “dating-obsessed and social-media-savvy 21st-century youths” strikes me as a polite way of saying “spoiled kids who spend all their time tweeting about which boy they like.” In that case, it’s not surprising that they’d find Jane Eyre too “antiquated” to for their tastes.

  • Hagbshf

    ====== http://fashionshops.us/ ========
    ======= http://fashionshops.us/ ========

    Dear friends, please temporarily stop your footsteps

    To our website Walk around A look at

    Maybe you’ll find happiness in your sight shopping heaven and earth

    You’ll find our price is more suitable for you.

    Welcome to our website ======= http://fashionshops.us/ ========

    Next we come to talk about a topic:

    Why are now prices are very expensive%uFF1F

    yes Many people now have to earn more money

    to Pushing up prices

    But they didn’t find customers buy after won’t come back

    But friends %uFF0CDo you ever found

    Our website is more cost-effective price than others
    ====== http://fashionshops.us/ ========
    ====== http://fashionshops.us/ ========
    ====== http://fashionshops.us/ ========
    ====== http://fashionshops.us/ ========

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I tried to like this. But since I switched browers it seems most of my likes aren’t taking. Don’t know why.

    Anyhow, in this connection, it may be worth reminding people that the Brontes came from an ‘ethnic’ background–their father was a protestant, true, but his people were for centuries poets in the native Irish community of Co. Down. Originally known as O Proinntigh.

    So while Austen’s father had a roughly similar church position as Patrick Bronte, maybe the residual anti-Irish prejudice gave the Bronte girls a little more distance and objectivity re: the dysfunctional aspects of English society.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I tried to like this. But since I switched browers it seems most of my likes aren’t taking. Don’t know why.

    Anyhow, in this connection, it may be worth reminding people that the Brontes came from an ‘ethnic’ background–their father was a protestant, true, but his people were for centuries poets in the native Irish community of Co. Down. Originally known as O Proinntigh.

    So while Austen’s father had a roughly similar church position as Patrick Bronte, maybe the residual anti-Irish prejudice gave the Bronte girls a little more distance and objectivity re: the dysfunctional aspects of English society.

  • Haystack

    Thanks, I’ve been noticing that my comments haven’t been getting nearly as many likes as I think they should. Now I know why. *grins*

    It’s true that they had Irish ancestry, but ethnicity isn’t a major theme of any of their novels. I think the class distinction more than anything else contributes to the difference in perspective. Jane Austen was a lady–she was educated, received a literary apprenticeship, had leisure time, etc. By contrast, Jane Eyre was written in between peeling potatoes. Austen writes from the perspective of the leisure class; the Brontes write from the perspective of those who made that leisure possible.

    It would be interesting to know what the Brontes themselves thought of Austen.

21