Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (2012): the archtypal fictional spinster.
Grotesques, prattlers, hysterical women ... historically, spinsters have had a raw deal in fiction. But astonishingly, the situation for older single ladies in contemporary novels has scarcely improved.
Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility: a competent moral agent drawing only on her intelligence and experience.
Columbia Pictures Corporation
This year is the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death and her celebrity continues to grow. But relegating Austen's work to plots about 'whether the heroine gets her man' belittles her achievement.
How did jogging go from a Victorian gentleman's pastime to the most popular form of exercise on the planet?
Rebecca Vaughn brings to life 14 of Jane Austen’s characters over the space of an hour.
Fourteen of Jane Austen's female characters – witty or ridiculous, selfish or avaricious – are presented in the astonishing show, Austen's Women. But her graver, more nuanced creations and stern but comic moralism fail to materialise.
Jane Eyre has been retold over and over again, but remains eternally relevant.
Jane Eyre (2011), Focus Features
Charlotte Brontë's heroines - most famously Jane Eyre - struggle with psychologically complex questions. And unlike Jane Austen's female protagonists, they prize self knowledge and self expression over conventional moralism.
Let’s critique the literary canon, but we shouldn’t throw the Brontës out with the bathwater.
The Brontë Sisters, by Patrick Branwell Brontë, circa 1834.
Like it or not, the literary canon is part of the cultural capital of the West. Universities that choose not to teach it – or refuse to critically engage with it – are actually disempowering students.
Amnesia won't help us much in the event of an apocalypse.
At the time of publication, Emma’s longevity was far from guaranteed.
The Shopping Sherpa
At the time of publication, the longevity of Jane Austen's fifth novel Emma was far from guaranteed. And yet, 200 years later, it now seems immortal. This is the story of its remarkable life.
The definition of ‘literature’ is changeable, and inextricably linked with fashion.
Pratchett image: EPA/Alessandro Della Bella. Austen image: Wikimedia Commons
Pratchett’s work is often classified as 'genre fiction' rather than literary fiction. Yet his relationship with genre is complex and adversarial. He sets genre stereotypes up to be deconstructed.
In reading, we feel ourselves able to get up close and personal with a dead author.
The reader who loves literature of the past seeks to forge intimate connections with those who are no longer alive. In reading, we feel ourselves able to get up close and personal with a dead author.
Austen periodically runs afoul of a particular kind of cultural hypocrisy.
Once pivotal to the English canon, Jane Austen has been adapted and readapted for Hollywood and Bollywood – and that kind of popularity comes at a cost.