Date of Award
Master of Liberal Studies
Living in rural England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Jane Austen had a very quiet life. She was pretty far removed from the strife and turmoil that existed during her lifetime. She never went to college. She never married and never had children. She never traveled outside of England. However, the idea that Austen had no life is simply a misnomer. If her novels were any indication of her world, Austen had a very rich life. Given that her novels are still being read and discussed today, they are many universal themes applicable to today.
When Austen died in 1817, few people knew her name. During her lifetime, she gained very little fame for her six novels, quietly publishing anonymously as “A Woman.” After her death, Austen’s sister Cassandra published her last two novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Those books sold well, but modestly. Only when Walter Scott, a great literary critic in England, praised the books in an article in 1837 was more attention paid to her work (Tomalin 273).
Moving forward to contemporary times, Austen’s novels have a life of their own, being adapted into movies. Some of these try to remain true to her world, while others take her themes and adapt them to different places and time periods. Her novels have also spawned sequels and other novels that pay tribute to her world. After almost a century of scholars and readers believing Austen had no life, there has also been a renewed interest in the woman herself. Some of the intense fandom has grown separately around Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy, especially as portrayed by Colin Firth in 1995 BBC miniseries. While most of her fans are in Great Britain and the United States, Austen remains popular in many parts of the English-speaking world. She has emerged from being an author to become a pop culture figure.
Scholer, Christian, "Austen Goes Pop: The Evolution of Jane Austen from Rural Writer to Contemporary Icon" (2009). Master of Liberal Studies Theses. 44.