Monday, October 21, 2013

Populated by Bronte People

Where James is complex and obscure and subtle, and prone to delve into a kind of moral microscopy of observation, Austen is direct, naturalistic, acerbic, and more than a little cold. There are no sensitive, metaphorical images or delvings into the minutiae of a given motivation. Rather, Austen mocks, strips away rationalizations, and reveals what is contemptible quite ruthlessly.

I will indulge myself here in a restrained and abbreviated diatribe simply to forestall confusion on the part of those readers who are more familiar with film versions of Austen's work and to whom teh above description will probably seem utterly alien. A few recent screen offerings, Pride and Prejudice (written by Deborah Moggach and directed by Joe Wright) and Mansfield Park (the 1999 Miramax iteration) for example, seem almost exclusively to be populated by Brontë people, swooning and sighing, rather than any such persons as Austen may have had in mind (with the possible exception of Marianne Dashwood in any version of Sense and Sensibility). Here is my heretical thought on the matter, or at least heretical by Hollywood standards. Austen is not a romantic novelist. She writes novels about romantic entanglements, but she is not often inclined to be sentimental in the pejorative sense.

E. M. Dadlez, Mirrors to One Another: Emotion and Value in Jane Austen and David Hume, Wiley Blackwell (2009) pp. 13-14.

1 comment:

  1. MrsDarwin7:38 AM


    I would note that both the movies Dadlez cites are studio productions, and that the BBC often does better adaptations simply through being more faithful and having a lower budget (and perhaps through maintaining residual cultural elements of Austin, much as cultural artifacts of Christianity remain in Western European societies even as the society itself moves away from the substance).


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