Toby Benis, Ph. D., professor of English, will present "The Austen Effect, or Why Historical Dramas Look a Lot Like Pride & Prejudice."
Everyone is invited to attend. Participants can bring a lunch and refreshments will be provided.
About the lecture
Jane Austen has become one of Hollywood's most popular screenwriters, but the influence of her work, or filmed versions of it, go beyond the ubiquitous adaptations. In the wake of the phenomenal success of recent Austen adaptations, initiated by the 1995 BBC miniseries Pride & Prejudice, films have viewed a variety of Romantic-era figures and causes through the prism of "the Austen effect."
In particular, the historical dramas Amazing Grace (2006), The Duchess (2008) and Bright Star (2009) reveal a pointed debt to Austenian plots, even when there is limited evidence in the historical record to support that treatment of events.
For example, film adaptations of the novel of manners, Amazing Grace, depicts the triumph of the crusade against the slave trade largely as a matter of the hero successfully negotiating social conventions and finding the right wife. Similarly, Bright Star, Jane Campion's film about John Keats, implicitly equates becoming a great poet with winning the hand of an aspiring lady, even if one's death prematurely cuts short both the courtship and the poetic career.
In the wake of the Austen effect, directors and screenwriters taking on a variety of material have seized on the conventions of "heritage cinema" - use of period detail, costumes, choreographed social events like balls and, of course, the courtship plot - that have been characteristic of Austen's oeuvre and her most influential film adaptors, from Emma Thompson to Andrew Davies.