Jane Austen and Adaptation
Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with the proclamation of a “truth universally acknowledged”, and indeed, one might claim that the longevity of her works attests to the universal truth of her human and social insight. In this course, we will combine an attentive study of Austen’s novels with a consideration of how they have been adapted for subsequent audiences. Reading novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey, we will consider how Austen responds to and adapts the historical conditions and literary conventions of her moment in order to produce her beloved novels. We will probe the tension between the universal appeal of her works, and their connections to the historical and the mundane. Moving on to adaptations, we will consider not only period films and miniseries but modernizations such as Clueless and the youtube series The Lizzie Bennett Diaries as we continue to probe the tension between the representation—or idealization—of history and the desire to translate Austen to modern moments, issues, and technologies. We will ask ourselves: What has allowed Austen to endure? And what can we learn about how we value history and literature from her success?