If you have ever read any of my CBR Reviews the last several years, you know that Jane Austen is my literary ride or die. I don’t typically read Jane Austen fanfic (with the marvelous exception of Longbourne), but I *do* read a lot of scholarship and intellectual thinkpieces that are not mansplaining Austen to wimminfolk. And that is how fate led my husband to point out The Making of Jane Austen to me at our local library and caused me to glint with recognition. I do not know Professor Looser personally, but my MA thesis advisor does through Jane Austen scholarship and 19th century academic connections, and my former department chair at Marquette gets a shout-out in her acknowledgments! It’s fun playing the Six Degrees of Academic Kevin Bacon. Name recognition made me pick up this book, but the content is a game-changer for Austen scholarship.
Looser focuses on less-known aspects of scholarship or culture surrounding Jane Austen. In so doing, she opens up avenues for future researchers to explore. The part on dramatizing Austen is perhaps the most fascinating, because it shows the origin of the “sexy Darcy” which has been popularly attributed to Colin Firth, who took his performance from Laurence Olivier, who has HIS roots in a theater adaptation in the 1930s and an ever-evolving screenplay. It’s fascinating, and a great accompaniment to The Cinematic Jane Austen (which I own and find utterly fascinating, as well).
Looser proficiently bridges the gap between scholarly and general writing, and this book is all the more worth reading, because of it. If you like reading about Jane Austen culture, this book is for you. If you are interested in cultural literary movements and authors’ afterlives, this book is also for you.
Cross-posted to my blog.