The Marquess of Queensbury has nothing to do with this


Several Alert Janeites sent us a link from Salon about the Jane Austen Fight Club video (which has really blown up HUGE) and JA mashups in general. The article was fine, and then the author had to go and drag out that tired old blah blah bonnets blah tea blah dressing up blah crazy cat ladies blah de blah.

Granted, we have a Jane Austen problem. Austen, like Jesus, is most misunderstood and misrepresented by those who claim to love her best. Somehow, a writer regarded by previous generations as among the greatest novelists of all time, widely read by both men and women, has lately been cast in the role of the grandmother of chick lit. Nostalgic fetishists of tea sets, balls, empire-waist gowns and Colin Firth choose to see the milieu of Austen’s novels as a theme park for genteel romance instead of as the unforgiving shark pond it actually was.

So let us get this straight: putting on an Empire-style gown precludes one from “truly understanding” Jane Austen? So what is the appropriate outfit, then? A tweed suit? Jeans and a flannel shirt and Birkenstocks? (We have two-thirds of that outfit already, so we’re hoping for that one.) What are the rules? For this statement implies that there are some rules. To be admitted to the Truly Understands Jane Austen Club, one is not allowed to wear a high-waisted frock or admire a certain British actor? Is it okay to fetishize Matthew Macfadyen, then, or David Rintoul, but not Colin Firth? Really, we just want to know, because we certainly don’t want to break the rules.

We are really weary of the perception that one cannot have fun with our fanship of Jane Austen without being perceived as lightweight or as not understanding her properly. Our notion of fun might be different from someone else’s idea of fun, but it doesn’t shut off some vital portion of the brain that is necessary to understanding Jane Austen. Really, we “get her;” we get her to the extent that we understand she would have wanted us to enjoy her novels first of all.

13 thoughts on “The Marquess of Queensbury has nothing to do with this

  1. I had an issue with this portion of the article as well.

    And absolutely no admiring Matthew Macfayden because as the article says, he was in that “awful, pandering 2005 version” of P&P. <—-my issue #2 with the article


  2. LeSpinster

    “Austen, like Jesus,…”

    Never thought I’d see those words together.

    But, obviously, the Official Real True Austen Understanders Uniform is a burlap sack. And you are only allowed to lust after R.W. Chapman. Maybe Tony Tanner, if you are under 30.


  3. LOL @LeSpinster! Lust after Chapman and Tanner. 😉

    Oh, I am so fagged over the “It is a truth universally acknowledged” line being lifted to introduced every media article where the writer thinks they can be as witty as Jane Austen and mention of the fanatic Austen fans who “dress up” and lust after Colin Firth theme.

    I don’t really understand Laura Miller’s point. So the creator of the video is not a true fan of Jane because she made a spoof about her? Then she turns around and challenges readers to create their own Austen mash-up’s?

    So, she is an literary admirer of of Austen but thinks pop culture’s admiration is stupid? Her bio lists her book The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. It appears that she makes a living off of belittling others who are fans of authors. So, how’s that working for you Laura?


  4. S

    I thought it was journalists, not Austen fans, who had cast Jane Austen in the role of Grandmother of Chick Lit. Every Austen fan of my acquaintance gnashes their teeth when they hear that.


  5. Reeba

    LOL, Mags. I enjoyed reading your response as a good cure for the billiousness I acquired after reading that bit.

    Though I didn’t find the ‘Jane Austen Fight Club’ funny at all I do enjoy spoofs.
    My favourite one is one from during the days of American elections, when Mags put up the clip from Sense and Sensibility about ‘diplomacy’. LOL! That was funny.

    Like others here I do consider myself a Janeite who understands her.


  6. Boris

    1. I do not think Austen needs university understanding, that’s the magic of Austen that people feel influenced deeply in their feelings and want to express it in a way. Is that a problem?

    2. That YouTube did not exist at Jane Austen times does not mean there was not fun and spoofs and mush-ups etc. What “The History of England” is supposed to be if not a fun mush-up of English Pops and Kings and their numerous wives and lovers and affairs etc.

    3. Austen writing is not chick lit it is literature. What nowadays seems to be a girly story was quite serious issue at Austen times. Chick lit is business whether it is literature or not I am not sure.


  7. Allison T.

    Jane Austen’s house, like God’s, has many rooms.

    I think what this author–as so many–fails to acknowledge is that there are many different ways to appreciate and enjoy Austen, and that while some admirers like strictly in one room, so to speak, others inhabit many.

    Not to toot own horn unduly, I discuss this kind of thing in my article “Trinkets and Treasures; Consuming Jane Austen” in which I am amused to remember that I specifically refer to rooms, as inhabited by different kinds of fans.

    There are indeed some fans who are wrapped up in the gowns and boots romantic view of Austen; others who revel in the hip ironic references to Austen, for example, those who wear the I (heart) Darcy thong underwear; and others who have no interest in any aspect of fandom whatsoever. And then there are those who live on many levels simultaneously.

    I think the most tedious thing about articles like these is the view that there’s only one right way to appreciate Austen. That would be like saying there is only one path to God–And I don’t think that even Aslan would say that is true; that is, after all, why Narnia exists, to permit children to enter the kingdom in a way that they can understand.

    Down off soap box now.


  8. Maria L

    Oh Ms. Miller, Austen is “most misunderstood and misrepresented” NOT by her readers who might enjoy wearing a pretty Regency gown, but by wannabe literary critics in the media who have made a fetish out of casting Austen as the doyenne of chick lit. They are the ones with the “Jane problem.” And since when does it follow that enjoying the sight of a handsome man makes one incapable of deeper literary insight?

    What’s wrong with having a bit of fun in the midst of the “unforgiving shark pond” anyway? Isn’t that one of the challenges of daily life no matter the era? (Take a cue from Lizzy Bennet, she can teach you a thing or two about “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies…”)

    And @Shannon, fetishizing Alan Rickman is one of my favorite pastimes, but I always do so with my favorite tea set at hand.


  9. Love the post from Mags and the responses the followed, especially those from LeSpinster and Allison T.

    You all make me proud to be a Janeite!!



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