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Durham University

Department of English Studies

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Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Sarah Wootton

Wootton, S. (2018). Revisiting Jane Austen as a Romantic Author in Literary Biopics. Women's Writing 25(4): 536-548.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This essay seeks to establish whether portrayals of Jane Austen on screen reaffirm a sense of the author's neoconservative heritage, or whether an alternative and more challenging model of female authorship is visible. Does this particular, and arguably defining, moment in Austen’s legacy offer new and diverse perspectives on the author and her Romantic and post-Romantic contexts? Both films raise troubling questions about adapting (and appropriating) Austen in the twenty-first century, with wider implications for the study of female authors and artists on screen. However, as I hope to demonstrate, the Austens of these biopics are neither reactionary heritage reproductions nor “authentic” Austens. Miss Austen Regrets (2008) and Becoming Jane (2007) are in a generative cinematic conversation with Austen’s past “lives” and the author’s present popularity as well as with the narrative style, mood, and tone of her fiction. In other words, “Austen”, as the name has come to signify her literary works and the cultural stories she has become the adoptive author of, reads the biopics even as they read her. Austen’s “authorship” in the twenty-first century rests on and is transfigured by a rapidly evolving and mutually informed nexus of co-readings between text and screen.

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