Persuasion (fandom)

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Name: Persuasion
Abbreviation(s): Per, P
Creator: Jane Austen
Date(s): 1818 (adaptations: 1960, 1971, 1995, 2007)
Medium: novel, television, film
Country of Origin: England
External Links: Wikipedia
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Persuasion is a novel by Jane Austen, first published posthumously in 1818. It has a small rarelit fandom as part of the broader Austen fandom; with a naval hero, it fits under the Age of Sail fandom umbrella too.

In Canon

When the novel opens, the heroine, Anne Elliot, the faded middle daughter of a vain & spendthrift baronet, is almost on the shelf. Eight years beforehand, she had a love affair with Frederick Wentworth, then a penniless naval commander. She accepted his offer of marriage but was subsequently persuaded by her mentor, Lady Russell, to break off her engagement. The novel charts the couple's slow journey to reconciliation after Wentworth's return to England as a wealthy captain.

The heroine is Austen's oldest, and the novel has an autumnal feel (played up in the 1995 adaptation) with themes of constancy & second chances. It's the only Austen novel where the hero is in the military, as well as the one where the man gets to express his love the most poetically (You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope).

Adaptations

Of the four adaptations, two are popular among fans. A 1995 film starred Amanda Root & Ciarán Hinds. Pretty faithful to the novel, it is much loved but gets occasional criticism for casting actors significantly older than the character ages. For example, Slytherin Gypsy writes The 1995 version seems to be the favorite adaptation with fans. While some people complain that the actors looked older than they are supposed to and that they are not as attractive as they should be, most people agree that this version is very faithful to the original novel.[1]

A 2007 ITV television film starred Sally Hawkins & Rupert Penry-Jones (with Anthony Stewart Head as a wonderful Sir Walter). Much less faithful to the novel, it gives Anne more agency, a move which is popular with some & reviled by others. Slytherin Gypsy again: The 2007 version is a bit more controversial than the 1995 one: some have loved it, some hated it. The costumes, the locations and the score have been praised, while the end (especially the part where Anne literally runs around Bath and the kiss she shares with Wentworth) has been highly criticized.[1]

Fannish Responses

[J] and I have a perpetual debate about this type of material, he just wails "But nothing HAPPENS", and I shout back "No, EVERYTHING HAPPENS !!!". He is a fan of Age of Sail stuff, Aubrey / Maturin, Master & Commander, and it is difficult for him to realise that for the women who were trapped by gender, class, and both financial and intellectual poverty, the drawing room and ballroom scenes in these novels are as breath-taking climactic, and vitally important, as rounding the Horn or taking on a French ship of the line were for their male counterparts. Our Heroine's second chance and how she finally manages to grasp it involved tactics to rival Nelson's breaking the line at Trafalgar, and although the ending is obvious, or at least looked-for, it is the struggle both against and toward it that is the depth of the book.

There was a BBC version of Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, broadcast about ten years ago. There is one pivotal scene where Anne is out walking with a group, and they meet the Croft's carriage in a lane. Wentworth ensures that it is Anne who accepts the proferred space in the carriage, and hands her up into it. This is the first time they have touched since their separation eight years before, and even though they are both wearing gloves and nothing is said, the impact of that touch took my breath away, and I would say it is The Most Erotic Moment in TV History. And you only get that level of erotica with that level of sexual and social constraint.

... This was the last book, and it is more about the start of middle age and the triumph of common sense - more delicate and less ruthless than, say, Emma. (Fran Dowd)[2]
Although Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book, Persuasion is a close second. While the relationship between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is widely acclaimed, the one between Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot is much less known. It is a pity, for it is a true example of love withstanding time and adversities. ...

I think that Frederick and Anne are suited to each other because even if they come from very different backgrounds and have distinct personalities, their opinions match in many respects (for instance, being both much more concerned with superiority of mind than with superiority of rank and fortune). They are acquainted with the other's preferences and feelings and are always very much aware of each other when in company, even when they try to be indifferent.

They are constant to one another not because they have no options, but simply because they could never find anyone that surpassed their estimation of the other's character. ... Being apart makes them muddle through; together they manage to find happiness.

Ultimately, shipping Frederick/Anne is much more than just following the dictates of canon: it's believing that love can transcend the test of time, misunderstandings, hurt pride and machinations.(Slytherin Gypsy)[1]
One of the things I've come to like about Austen's Persuasion over works like Pride and Prejudice--though I will never stop loving P&P!--is that it's quieter and more experienced. It's not the heady first blush of young love; it's older people who have known love in its splendors and its keen pains and disappointments also who are nonetheless trying, trying so hard to reach out. (mswyrr)[3]
I have to say that I really, really enjoyed ‘Persuasion’. ... I was suddenly hit with a beaming smile as the wit I had heard Jane Austen has, but didn’t believe she did, smacked me round the chops...

From this point in the book was honestly a real joy. I felt that I actually ‘got’ Jane Austen and the more I read on the more and more I realised that my preconceptions of her were way off the mark. I had imagined this would all be rather twee and sentimental but have the happy ending I was expecting. Here I must say I did guess the ending but firstly I loved the twists that went on throughout and secondly doesn’t the ending have a dark ominous overtone? What I actually got was a very witty, often a little darkly so, and intelligent and wryly perceptive author who clearly watched and observed and then, in wonderful prose – though it took me a little while to get into the Olde English, writes it almost to a level of pastiche, yet so convincing it never goes too far, for the reader to enjoy. ...

The other aspect of her writing is how much of an insight it gives into the social state of the country at the time and indeed the plight of women. ...

In some of the characters, having seen so many adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, whilst not having read it I know, I felt that I had seen them before. There were a few Mrs Bennett’s and indeed a rather Wickham like character which whilst never stopped me enjoying ‘Persuasion’, indeed all the ‘vexing’ is wonderful, did spoil one twist in the tale alas. It made me wonder if all her novels have the same set characters and aim to achieve the same moralistic, yet also rather fairytale like, ends.

...If all of her novels contain this level of observance, wonderful characters be they good or bad, illustration of the human condition (and amazingly people still behave like this, maybe why it resonates to this day), emotion, humour and wry commentary I could become a hardened fan. (Savidge Reads)[4]

Fandom

The novel is often cited as a favourite among Austen readers. (It's a bit like Marmite: the Austen Unconvinced tend to hate it.[5]) Anne's poignant defence of women's capacity for constancy & Wentworth's fervent letter in response (one of the most beautiful fictional letters ever written[1]) are widely known & loved. (The letter is referenced, for example, by P.D. James when Adam Dalgliesh proposes.)

Discussion frequently focuses on the merits of the two most recent adaptations. Picspam tends to favour the 2007 version.

Fanfiction

The Jane Austen Fanfiction Index documents around 325 Persuasion stories as of 1 February 2014, with the earliest dating from 1997. There's a little Persuasion fanfiction at some of the major Austen archives, including Bits of Ivory and especially Derbyshire Writers' Guild, where it is the most popular source after Pride and Prejudice. The novel is a perennial request at Yuletide, where the first story appeared in 2006. Significant amounts of fanfiction can also be found at the multifandom archives FanFiction.Net and Archive of Our Own.

Like P&P, Emma, Sense and Sensibility & Northanger Abbey, Persuasion mainly inspires romances featuring the canonical pairings. There is accordingly little or no m/m slash or femslash. Occasional non-canonical het pairings include Anne/Walter William Elliot, Wentworth/Louisa Musgrove, Anne/James Benwick & Anne/Charles Musgrove.

Most stories are canon compatible. Many focus on the novel's backstory, telling the story of Anne & Wentworth's love affair, and the years of regret in between for both characters. Retellings of the novel from Wentworth's perspective are also common. Happy-ever-after sequels are also very popular, often showing Anne at sea or following the couple's children. Some fork-in-the-road AUs exist, but relatively few compared with P&P. The majority of fanfiction is set in the canonical Regency period, but there are also plenty of modern AUs. Compared with P&P, there is relatively little fanfiction about the novel's secondary characters, although Admiral & Sophy Croft's story occasionally gets told, as does Mr & Mrs Smith's history with Mr Elliot.

The naval background sometimes inspires works with a naval setting and more of an Age of Sail feel. These works sometimes cross over with Mansfield Park, often using the hook that Fanny's brother William Price served under Captain Wentworth. Crossovers with other Age of Sail fandoms have also occasionally appeared, including the Aubrey-Maturin & Hornblower series. The Bath background leads to stealth crossovers with other works set in that city, especially Georgette Heyer.

Example Fanworks

Fanfiction

Meta

Recs

Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shipper's Manifesto: I Have Loved None But You – A Frederick Wentworth/Anne Elliot Manifesto (accessed 1 February 2014)
  2. Comment by Fran Dowd in instant-fanzine: Book Group Discussion: June - Persuasion by Jane Austen (accessed 1 February 2014)
  3. mswyrr: Mentalist Fic Recs: "Self Analysis for Dummies" and "Persuasion" (accessed 1 February 2014)
  4. Savidge Reads: Persuasion – Jane Austen (accessed 1 February 2014)
  5. instant-fanzine: Book Group Discussion: June - Persuasion by Jane Austen (accessed 1 February 2014)