Ouch. This is an ugly one. Well-known Jane Austen scholar Kathryn Sutherland has accused biographer Claire Harman, author of the upcoming Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (Laurel Ann previewed it on Austenprose), of copying ideas from Professor Sutherland’s more scholarly take on a similar subject, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood, published in 2006.
Sutherland uncovered evidence that the punctuation inserted on Austen’s manuscripts shows how she was turned into a more acceptable and organised kind of creative genius. Her novels serve today as the basis of lavish costume dramas and Bollywood screenplays.
“My book was hailed as ground-breaking, but not many people outside the circle of Austen scholars have seen it,” said Sutherland. “I had used three informal family biographies of Jane written by her nieces which were then ignored in the version of her life that was put out to the world by her nephew and publishers.”
In Sutherland’s view, Harman’s book will now end her own hopes of a wider readership: “The commercial and academic worlds are obviously different, but there is a cross-over. In academia, you cite every source to prove your scholarship, while in a commercial book, you don’t.” She claims that readers who follow up Harman’s footnotes and read her book will see the similarities.
Another article covers much the same ground. Thanks to Alert Janeites Maria L. and Lisa for the links.