Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
English Language and Literature | Other English Language and Literature
The rise of “Austenmania” in the form of films and heritage tours has been well marked in the past twenty years. Films based on Austen texts have attained a mass market popularity and tours based on Austen texts (and even Austen film adaptations) have likewise become popular within the heterosexual, romance-consuming female demographic. With the advent of the heritage film, Austen’s original texts became prime fodder for the heritage industry and the conservative depiction of Britain’s past Margaret Thatcher’s administration wished to portray. It is no mistake, in short, that “Austenmania” in effect began in the 1980s. The contemporary Anglo-American cultural markers of the heritage industry and feminism have influenced the development, success, and consumption of products like Austen film adaptations and have also influenced the production and consumption of Austen fan fiction. In this thesis I sought to prove that the heritage industry’s conservative agenda has a similarly conservative influence on Austen fan fiction. This conservative influence undermines or complicates the feminism some literary critics claim appears in fan fictions like Alexandra Potter’s Me and Mr. Darcy and Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy.
In order to prove this thesis, I relied mainly on traditional research into the arguments of prominent literary critics of the heritage industry, film and feminism. I also performed independent research into Austen fan fictions through close readings and comparisons with other fan fictions not mentioned in this thesis. The evidence of an unfeminist message in Potter and Aidan’s fan fiction lies in their creation of irrational heroines, overly saccharine romances, and confusion in the characterization of Darcy as a “New Man.” While various feminist literary critics (according to their own, often widely different definitions of feminism) claim that each of these elements signals the feminism of Austen and/or of Austen film adaptations, I question such claims in light of the evidence of Austen fan fiction. Furthermore, while critics like Janice Radway or Henry Jenkins claim romances and fan fictions, respectively, are feminist, I argue that Austen fan fictions lack some of the characteristics that these critics cite as crucial to the feminism of these genres. In light of this evidence, I claim that Austen fan fiction should be considered unfeminist texts, and the influence of the heritage industry is in large part responsible for this conservative reading.
Schaber, Rebecka, "Jane Austen Film Adaptations, Fan Fiction, and Contemporary Anglo-American Culture" (2008). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 502.
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