ABOUT THE BOOK
The Making of Jane Austen
by Devoney Looser
Johns Hopkins University Press; hardback, 304 pgs, 23 halftones; ISBN 9781421422824; 27 June 2017
Just how did Jane Austen become the celebrity author and the inspiration for generations of loyal fans she is today? Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen turns to the people, performances, activism, and images that fostered Austen’s early fame, laying the groundwork for the beloved author we think we know.
Here are the Austen influencers, including her first English illustrator, the eccentric Ferdinand Pickering, whose sensational gothic images may be better understood through his brushes with bullying, bigamy, and an attempted matricide. The daring director-actress Rosina Filippi shaped Austen’s reputation with her pioneering dramatizations, leading thousands of young women to ventriloquize Elizabeth Bennet’s audacious lines before drawing room audiences. Even the supposedly staid history of Austen scholarship has its bizarre stories. The author of the first Jane Austen dissertation, student George Pellew, tragically died young, but he was believed by many, including his professor-mentor, to have come back from the dead.
Looser shows how these figures and their Austen-inspired work transformed Austen’s reputation, just as she profoundly shaped theirs. Through them, Looser describes the factors and influences that radically altered Austen’s evolving image. Drawing from unexplored material, Looser examines how echoes of that work reverberate in our explanations of Austen’s literary and cultural power. Whether you’re a devoted Janeite or simply Jane-curious, The Making of Jane Austen will have you thinking about how a literary icon is made, transformed, and handed down from generation to generation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Devoney Looser is a professor of English at Arizona State University. She grew up in Minnesota, where postage-stamp sized backyards were transformed into winter ice rinks using garden hoses, and cold weather brought opportunities to snuggle up and read. Today she teaches Austen to students in the desert and has switched to roller skates. She married another Austen scholar, George Justice. Their two tween-teen sons find Austen merely tolerable. Looser is the author of two previous books, Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850 and British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670–1820.
Is It right for your book club?
Yes, definitely! I'd love to hear from you if you're considering it.
This book works best in clubs familiar with Austen's fiction OR its film adaptations. (You could read or watch Pride and Prejudice and then choose this book.)