Jane Austen (fandom)

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Fandom
Name: Jane Austen's writing, including finished and unfinished novels, letters and juvenilia.
Abbreviation(s): JAF (or JAFF when referring to the fanfiction)
Creator: Jane Austen
Date(s): first novel published in 1811 (Sense and Sensibility)
Medium: text
Country of Origin: England
External Links: Jane Austen at Wikipedia


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Contents

Jane Austen's novels, especially Pride and Prejudice, have inspired a great quantity of transformative and derivative work.

Many Jane Austen fans call themselves janeites.

The books have been adapted to television, cinema and theatre numerous times, which in turn have inspired fan works almost as much as the novels themselves. As the latter are out of copyright, many fan works have been published outright or are published after getting an audience online.

The fandom continues to increase its size steadily after growth spurts in the years 1995 and 2005, in which the two better known adaptations of Pride and Prejudice aired and showed on cinema, respectively. These are a BBC series, and a movie, both titled like the book. A 2008 miniseries, a fantasy adaptation in which a fan finds herself transported into the events of the novel, although lightheartedly chicklit-ish in execution, is itself a fanwork with meta-commentary for the book and the BBC series. The internet-based modern adaption The Lizzie Bennet Diaries managed to draw in many people who hadn't read Pride and Prejudice before.

The fandom also contains a large group of fans that do not produce fanfiction, but rather dedicate themselves to canon interpretation and discussion, like the Jane Austen Societies, the AUSTEN-L mailing list, the site The Republic of Pemberley, and AustenBlog, this last principally for fandom-wide news, regarding adaptations or academic or fan publications.

The general demographics of the fandom seems to be generally female, largely adult, and educated[1].

Fanfiction

The creative part of the fandom is dominated by English-language Pride and Prejudice fanfiction of a romantic bent. The most popular pairing is Fitzwilliam Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet, and fanfiction depicting contradicting pairings is rare. In consequence, the fanfiction is almost entirely het. There is also a predominance of plot rehashes or reworks, either set in the Regency period and retelling the main events of the novel or as modern re-interpretations of the same[2], which are considered (or were in the recent past) the only stories that 'follow canon'[3]. In many other media fandoms, these would be called AUs, but the terminology is not commonly used in Austen fandom. There is also discussion about what canon and canon compliant is, with some people considering stories that break the traditional Fitzwilliam Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet pairing non-canon or OOC by default[4], or automatically Fuck With Canon (FWC)[5].

All the other novels have received a little fannish attention, and all are perennial requests at Yuletide. Like Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility mainly inspire romances featuring the canonical pairings. Mansfield Park is unusual among Austen novels, however, in inspiring fanfiction that often focuses on non-canonical relationships, with a significant proportion of works having m/m slash, femslash and incestuous pairings. The naval background in Persuasion sometimes inspires works with a naval setting and more of an Age of Sail feel. Northanger Abbey, probably the least written of the completed novels, occasionally inspires Gothic melodramas and crossovers with fairy tales.

As at 3 July 2013, the numbers of stories for each novel in several popular archives were:[6]

Novel AO3 BOI DWG ff.net YT
Emma 16 23 147 259 3
Mansfield Park 35 19 104 46 8
Northanger Abbey 15 9 51 28 3
Persuasion 31 23 155 111 7
Pride and Prejudice 228 333 2214 2896 5
Sense and Sensibility 22 29 93 160 1

Fanfiction History

The first thing remotely resembling JAFF fanfic is almost certainly a letter purportedly from Elizabeth Darcy, written by Fanny Knight, Jane Austen's niece, and sent to Jane Austen, in hopes that she (JA) would respond as Georgiana. The fic or letter itself has not survived.[7]

Next in time is "The Younger Sister," a completion of the unfinished The Watsons published in 1850, by one of Jane Austen's nieces, Catherine-Anne Hubback.[8]

In 1913, Sibil Brinton published "Old Friends and New Fancies," a sequel that weaves characters from all of Jane Austen's books into its plot. See the 1913 London Times' citation in Amazon's page for the book, "Miss Brinton takes the original form of continuing the fortunes of the characters [of Jane Austen] and devising marriages..."[9]

Edith (Hubback) Brown, Catherine-Anne Hubback's granddaughter, would publish another completion of The Watsons in 1928, as well as "Margaret Dashwood; or Interference," in 1929, and "Susan Price; or Resolution," in 1930, sequels to Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, respectively.[10]

The list of published sequels grows exponentially larger after that.[11]

There was also Jane Austen fanfiction published in fanzines in the 1920s and 1930s. [12] One fan wrote:
"In the late 1950's early 1960's, I belonged to a group of people that mimeographed and mailed to each other 'Bonanza' 'Perry Mason' and other TV show Fan Fiction.(my friend and I were the youngest in the group) One of the adults I believe was connected in some way to screenwriting, so he was probably getting free ideas from us. *wink* My mom at the time told us that she had done the same as a teenager with Gone With the Wind and P&P (Sir Larry) and a lot of Errol Flynn movies! [13]

The first piece of online fanfiction may be "Arnessa's Sequel Plot" by Arnessa, a P&P sequel posted to the P&P2BB message board (later The Republic of Pemberley) in September 1996.[14] The first online archive was Bits of Ivory/Derbyshire Writers' Guild, which appeared in 1997 at RoP, and split in 1998.

Fandom Communities

The fanfiction writing communities are in general centered around forums, and closed forums if they accept R, M, or NC-17 rated fiction.

The fanfiction writers' demographics of the closed sites appear to be largely female, and adult, with a few exceptions[15].

The open sites' demographics appear to be more varied regarding age[16]. These open sites include the Derbyshire Writers' Guild, and possibly the first online archive for Jane Austen fanfiction, Bits of Ivory (a Republic of Pemberley off-shoot, whose forum is no longer active). There is also Jane Austen fanfiction[17] on Fanfiction.net.

The demographics are particularly easy to track because the predominant custom in Austen fandom is using legal-looking names[18], a markedly different custom to other media fandoms[19].

There are fandom-wide projects (initiated and maintained by individual fans). One is the Jane Austen Fanfiction Index, which intends to be a searchable database of all Jane Austen Fanfiction, with links to the archives. The other is the Regency Encyclopedia, which is a searchable database of historical facts and customs, as well as passive and interactive period maps, intended as assistance for the writers.

Fandom Archives and Fanfiction Forums

Panfandom sites that contain Austen fanworks

References

  1. Jane Austen Survey 2008's results, as published in the V.29, NO.1 of Persuasions, a publication of the Jane Austen Society of North America, accessed last 17 Jun 2012.
  2. i.e. The initial insult, the insulting proposal with its following argument, etc.
  3. Discussion in the Hyacinth Gardens' subforum The Knot Garden, "What is canon?".
  4. Discussion in the Hyacinth Gardens' subforum The Knot Garden, "Why?, happy ending for Elizabeth and Darcy always?".
  5. The most common definition of FWC seems to be 'changes to canon that mess with people's mind', chief of them the breaking up of the principal couple. See discussion in A Happy Assembly's subforum Author's Coffehouse, "FWC...., ...at which point a story becomes FWC for you?".
  6. AO3: Archive of Our Own; BOI: Bits of Ivory; DWG: Derbyshire Writers' Guild; ff.net: FanFiction.Net; YT: Yuletide (2004–2008). In archives lacking statistics, numbers were counted by hand and might be inaccurate.
  7. See Persuasions No 27 2005 “The Whinnying of Harpies”: Humor in Jane Austen’s Letters by JAN FERGUS or this Austen-L message by Arnie Perlstein.
  8. The Victorian Web-Works and Literary Significance
  9. "Old Friends and New Fancies," in Amazon. Also, see AustenBlog's review.
  10. The Victorian Web-Works and Literary Significance
  11. See "What Happened Next? or The Many Husbands of Georgiana Darcy," by KATHLEEN GLANCY, and Republic of Pemberley's list.
  12. see Wikipedia's article on fanfiction
  13. this bit of oral history posted by margb, Thursday, 15 May 2008, at 1:39 p.m. in the Derbyshire Writer's Guild's Jane Austen's Tea Room forum
  14. Bits of Ivory: Arnessa's Sequel Plot (accessed 28 January 2014)
  15. See member lists for The Hyacinth Gardens' forum and A Happy Assembly.
  16. See The Derbyshire Writers' Guild Baronetage.
  17. FanFiction.Net's Jane Austen fanfiction page. Accessed October 7th 2008.
  18. See, for example, Derbyshire Writers Guild Contributors Guidelines "Think of it this way: you wouldn't walk into someone's living room wearing a mask, nor should you wear one here."
  19. (Of course other web communities, like The WELL, also do this)
  20. At the Back Fence: Words of a "Janeite" (accessed 29 January 2014)
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