WHY DO WE READ JANE AUSTEN? with John Wiltshire

Tuesday 4 Aug 2009, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Jane Austen’s novels make them, perhaps more than any other classics, resistant to translation into films.  This talk discusses the absence of the visual in her work, the continuous presence of an ironically-disposed narrator and her pervasive anti-romantic treatments and values.  The talk suggests that films bearing Jane Austen’s name turn this anti-romantic novelist back into a romantic novelist and that this is the source of their ongoing appeal.

Virginia Woolf once wrote that Jane Austen ‘should have laid a wreath on the grave of Fanny Burney’ – meaning that the younger novelist could not have written without Burney’s example.  The following talks show that there is much evidence of Austen’s affection for Burney’s books, but it goes on to suggest that they are radically different writers.

John Wiltshire was a Professor at La Trobe University until his retirement in 2007.  He is the author of several books about Jane Austen, and has edited Mansfield Park for the authoritative Cambridge edition.  His most recent book is The Cinematic Jane Austen (2009).


Jane Austen's house The house in which Jane Austen lived from 1809 to 1817, Chawton, England.© Anthony Hall/Shutterstock

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