Jane Austen is arguably the most popular author ever to write in the English language. She is a commodity, an industry, a corporation, and a celebrity, who has been enjoying immense and varied popularity for decades. And the Austen train shows no signs of slowing down; her fan base is growing rapidly to include Janeites from all corners of the globe. Yes, the master craftspersonship of her novels is reason enough to validate Austen’s boon; yet, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that Austen fans are different from other fans of literary figures. Indeed, Austen fans are passionate about their favorite author, they derive immense and varied pleasures from her, and you might agree that they are possessive of their friend, Jane Austen. What follows in this chapter is a series of speculations about why the Austen experience is so dramatically different from any other kind of author appreciation. My argument is that the realms of pleasure, passion, and possessiveness in the Austen world are all possible because, to a great degree, Jane Austen is an invention. You might say that aside from the novels, Austen does not entirely exist. The historical “Jane Austen” is a fiction, a screen onto which the desires, fantasies, and passions of her audience members are constantly projected.
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- Inventing Jane
Robert G. Dryden
- Palgrave Macmillan US
- Chapter Eight