Austen-tatious: My Austen in August Experience

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer who is also a teacher will never get everything done she has planned for the month of August. And so my Austen in August participation has not gone exactly as I’d envisioned it.

I own a beautiful Kindle version of all six of Jane Austen’s novels, together in one austeninaugustrbr-buttonillustrated file. I also have, waiting on my TBR list, Vera Nazarian’s Austen mash-up Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons. It was my intention to read all of these, and I had even triaged a list in case I began to run out of time.

Instead, I got caught in the back-to-school web, and have been focusing on summer reading books—at my school the departments take turns grading the essays the students turn in, and this year my department is up—and getting my classroom ready. Reading for pleasure has been tough to squeeze in.

So instead of reading for our Austen in August celebration, I’ve taken to watching. It’s a different kind of experience to be sure. I’m such a visual learner that seeing actual images leaves a different kind of impression on my brain than creating images as I read. But it’s been exceedingly enjoyable.

Here are a few of the productions I’ve watched this month:

Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball
Produced by the BBC, this is a 90 minute recreation of the Netherfield Ball from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Host Alastair Sooke takes the viewer through myriad Pride and Prejudice BBCpreparations: dance students learning the steps to a cotillion, a seamstress making an older style dress into a Regency one, a master chef creating historically accurate ices from Georgian molds. I consider myself pretty well-versed in Regency culture, but even I learned a thing or two (did you know that gentlemen sometimes wore cosmetics?). And the visual display of the finished product was absolutely stunning, not just as an Austen adaptation but as a Regency recreation.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
If P&P’s Elizabeth Bennet had been a 21st Century grad student, this is what her life would have been like. This online modernization is presented as Lizzie’s video Lizzy Bennet Diariesblog, with each episode running around three minutes. For those of you looking for a classic adaptation, cover your eyes now. This version is coarser than Jane Austen’s (with references to nights spent drinking, and language I wouldn’t use in front of my grandmother, for example). But it’s funny, light, and oddly on the nose so far (one of the developers is Hank Green, brother of Mental Floss’s John Green, so I expected no less). I haven’t finished all the episodes yet (there are 100, plus extras), but I can’t wait to see how the rest play out. Catch the complete series here.

Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth. Jennifer Ehle. What more do I need to say? 😀


I’m still hoping to get to all the books I mentioned, but I’m officially back to school today, so we’ll see if my free time and energy level will play nice with each other. If not, there are plenty more adaptations to watch!

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