Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman
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Part of the reason why she pleases us so much now is that she was, for years, pleasing only herself.

Scholarly yet accessible, Jane’s Fame is a sort of dual biography—of Jane Austen herself, and of her posthumous rise to a worldwide cultural phenomenon. In the first couple of chapters, British author Claire Harman relates revelatory anecdotes from Austen’s life and offers fresh insight into Austen as an author. It’s widely known, for instance, that Austen struggled for years to get her work published, and Harman maintains that “the longer Austen remained unpublished, the more experimental she became, and the more license she assumed with bold, brilliant moves.” Harman then shifts her focus to the rises and falls in the author’s popularity, from the spike in interest in “Divine Jane” fifty years after her death, to the vast increase in scholarly criticism of her novels in the early twentieth century, to her explosive arrival on the modern pop-culture scene, fueled by popular film and television adaptations of her work, among other things. An absolutely fascinating read, Jane’s Fame illuminates how a young author whose literary scope encompassed, as she put it, “three or four families in a Country Village” came to be “so intimately connected with our sense of ourselves and of our whole society.” (AG)

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