Jane Austen. Who is Jane Austen I thought, as my faculty advisor recommended the course with enthusiasm? Her excitement about Jane Austen influenced my decision to register as an English African American female and English major. I knew nothing about Jane Austen; I had never heard of the author except that I had a fall semester Jane Austen course with Dr. Smith at the University of the Pacific. I choose not to research the author because I felt the enthusiasm my faculty advisor had for Jane Austen was dependable enough. I was anxious to begin my journey with Jane Austen after the enrollment of my class.
The first day of class we took a quiz to determine the different levels of Jane Austen lovers and the results concluded that I was a Janeite. A Janeite is described by www.wikipedia.org as an expert on or admirer of the life and works of the English novelist, Jane Austen. Me a Janeite… I accepted the label, interested to see how my answers intertwined with the attributes of Jane Austen’s novels. What could we have in common? I definitely wasn’t an expert, but the admirer in me, stood in the shadows waiting to be revealed. I was a virgin to Jane Austen novels and I was ready crack open our first novel Sense and Sensibility and turn the first page. But before I did, I had to get a grasp on who Jane Austen was and Dr. Smith was prepared to fill me in.
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775 into a family which her fathers and older brothers primarily educated her along with her love for reading. The dedicated support of her family was dire to her development as a professional writer. According to Jane Austen for Dummies, no pun intended, Jane Austen is the queen of courtship novels and the originator of the Regency romance. Jane Austen lived until the age of 41 and completed six novels, which four were published before her death and two were published after. The four novels published before her death was Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey after her death. Austen’s novels have roused the attention of film and outdone social limitations.
Numerous motion pictures and television adaptations have been created. In 1938 a television presentation of the novel Pride and Prejudice aired and a film adaptation of Persuasion is projected to be released in 2014. The love for Jane Austen will continue on for many years due to her focus on humanity issues, including love and romance. Just like Puff Daddy says on his lyrics “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” Jane Austen novels are timeless and will continue to be relevant to her readers throughout in the future. Jane Austen has attracted the attention of African American men in power and with celebrity status.
Cornet West is a noticeable and provoking democratic intellectual. He has professed on www.storify.com that he is a Jane Austen Freak. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. Cornel West stated Jane Austen had, “moments of slices that more than titillating there empowering ennobling.” Austen is ennobling in the sense according to Cornel West that “she is preoccupied like all great artists with the human condition. Austen focuses on what it means to be human…which means we have fears, insecurities, anxieties, we have envies, we wonder who we are. He unveiled the outward appearances of what others had prejudiced Jane Austen’s work to stand for. Cornel West is not the only African American who feels Austen’s labor towards the humankind.
Dwyane Wade, a Guard playing for the National Basketball Association stated in his interview with us.penguineclassics.com; “Reading the classics is like opening a door to a world that at first looks so different from mine, but when I look closer, is filled with people who struggle with the same things I do. And the great thing is they may be a little farther along in their struggle than I am, so I can actually learn something.” I agree with Dwyane Wade that the novels are about struggle that one can learn from and possibly avoid in one’s own relationship when identifying oneself with Jane Austen’s internal character versus the physical character. I believe Jane Austen novels were created for all humankind as Austen focus on attributes such as civility, kindness, relationships, understanding, love and loyalty. It is unfortunate for anyone who overlooks Austen’s novels and makes it an external issue between black and white people instead of an internal issue about self, no matter what the time period. Austen significantly objects to slavery and has mentioned it in her novels.
Austen purposely wrote with the mindfulness that slavery was existent. Austen wanted her readers to know she did not condone slavery even with her personal connections with people who had an involvement in the industry. Austen novels focus on details and descriptions of characters that live in England; however, an African American reader can be easily swayed to feel that Austen’s work is just for the Anglo Saxon community. Austen recognized the heart of mankind which makes her work relatable. The idea of love and dating allowed me to strip any misconceptions and ideas about Jane Austen as an African American female and offer a challenge to my readers.
I am writing an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novels with names that are familiar to the African American community to grasp if the reader identify with the character. I will follow up several blog posts with one act scenes and look for your feedback. I hope to bridge the gap with Jane Austen novels, between race and humanity. One Love!