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Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World Hardcover – March 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082586
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,203,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Diverting anecdotes pepper award-winning British biographer Harman's (Myself and the Other Fellow: A Life of Robert Louis Stevenson) sharp and scholarly analysis of Jane Austen's life and the posthumous exploitation of her as a global brand having everything to do with recognition and little to do with reading. Tracing the rise and fall and rise of Austen's reputation against a larger historical backdrop, Harman chronicles the WWI-era worshipping Janeites; assessments of Austen that minimized her as an accidental artist; and modern post-feminist criticism that, in exploring her politics, sexual and otherwise, has placed Austen in several mutually exclusive spheres at once. Harman notes that film versions have taken liberties with and overshadowed Austen's books, concluding that [o]ne of the horrible ironies of Austen's currency in contemporary popular culture is that she is referenced so freely … in discussions of 'empowerment,' 'girl power,' and all the other travesties of womanly self-fashioning that stand in for feminism today. Yet it is impossible to imagine a time when she or her works could have delighted us long enough. Harman herself delights with this comprehensive catalogue of Austen-mania. Illus. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

How did Jane Austen get to be such a hot commodity? Harman delves into this question by examining Austen’s literary reputation and appeal over the years. Although Austen has been presented (mostly by her family members) as wanting little to do with the fate of her books beyond her own inner circle, she did in fact take a keen interest in their publication and reception. Upon her death in 1817, her work sank into obscurity; even the dedication copy of Emma presented to the Prince Regent while she was alive was relegated to the royal servants’ library. All that changed when Memoir of Jane Austen, written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, was published in 1869. Although his portaryal of dear Aunt Jane was misleading, the biography marked the beginning of a steady upward climb in scholarly and popular appreciation, culminating in the avid fandom of today. Engagingly written and full of fascinating bits of information as well as valuable insights, this is a must for any serious Austen reader. --Mary Ellen Quinn

More About the Author

Claire Harman is the award-winning author of three major literary biographies, Sylvia Townsend Warner (1989), Fanny Burney (2000), Robert Louis Stevenson (2005) and of Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Comquered the World (2009), a biographical study of Jane Austen's enduring appeal. She is the editor of Sylvia Townsend Warner's poems and diaries and of stories and essays by Robert Louis Stevenson, among other works. She writes regularly for the literary press on both sides of the Atlantic and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2006.

website: www.claireharman.com

Customer Reviews

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Really worthwhile reading - and highly recommended.
A. Woodley
I listened to the audio version of the book (borrowed from a local library) in my car during commutes and enjoyed it very much.
Ann in Amherst
If you need evidence, look at the continuing popularity of the novels of Jane Austen.
R. Hardy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on May 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
She has the second most quoted line in literary history (the opening to Pride and Prejudice) and a following in the Millions. In fact just looking on the lists of Amazon this month, there are something like 10 new books with Jane Austen in the title (not including Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies). Claire Harman traces the growth of the Jane Austen Phenomena. From Jane Austen's early life to the present day.

Written beautifully, Harman has done an incredible job in tracking down the rise of Austen as the world's favourite author. Dispelling the myths along the way and enlightening the reading public as to the real background to Jane.

Austen was a writer from early on, her Juvenlia were also part of an active, intelligent, and witty family collection. Clearly she wrote to appeal and entertain as with the rest of family. However Jane did show a special interest - and was supported in this at a time when there were female authors - but they were rare. The known facts of her life are laid bare, which reflects on the later biography by her great Nephew Austen-Leigh as less than honest reflection. Letters Harman has sourced between Austen-Leigh and other relatives show that much was concealed and the attempt was made to paint Jane Austen as gentle kindly lady.

Jane Austen's fame grew from the mid to late nineteenth centry - up until the 1850's there had been fewer than 10 critical articles in literary journals on her work, and while her works were in print, an attempt to sell the copyright to them in the 1830's hardly fetched the sum her family had hoped for - a mere 500 pounds. So while they eventually sold the copyright much cheaper, the books at least stayed in print for several decades.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The reading public is not all clamoring for the next popular thriller. There are reasons to be confident that people are at least sometimes reading truly great literature. If you need evidence, look at the continuing popularity of the novels of Jane Austen. They have not always been popular, and were wrenched from obscurity decades after her death, but it does not seem as if they will ever need such a rescue again. In _Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World_ (Canongate), biographer Claire Harmon has given something of a posthumous biography, although she does provide some useful insights about Austen's life and attitude toward her work. The important chronicle here, though, is how Austen, well appreciated as an author by her family circle, had significant but minor success with publication in her lifetime, was forgotten, became a literary staple, and then became a phenomenon. Harmon expects that readers will know something of Austen's works (not a bad assumption to make), but her book even when concentrating on what academics have made of the novels is unstuffy and brightly written.

Austen died at age only 41in 1817. In the chapters devoted to Austen's life, Harmon tries (as have so many) to understand how this rural spinster could have produced such worthy novels. It was family influence that helped. Her family read. They talked about books, and they made fun of the bad ones and valued the good. "Jane Austen became a great writer," says Harmon, "partly because she was a great reader, and had a highly developed _consumer's_ understanding of her favourite form." Her family, though they loved her writing, underestimated the value of her novels, and certainly would have been surprised that generations later would find Austen a world-class author.
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Format: Hardcover
When the Archbishop of Dublin made this statement in a long article he wrote in 1821, just four years after the death of Jane Austen (1775 - 1816), he was recognizing the genius of a writer whose identity was unknown during her lifetime. Now, two hundred years later, with "Jane-mania" reaching epic proportions, Claire Harman writes a scholarly and readable analysis of the events over the past two centuries which have led to Jane Austen's increasing popularity, ultimately explaining "How Jane Austen Conquered the World."

Writing for the public was still a man's activity in the early 1800s, and Jane Austen spent most of her life writing privately, for family and friends. For twenty years, she wrote and, more importantly, rewrote her six famous novels, before Sense and Sensibility was finally published anonymously in 1811, when Jane was thirty-five. Pride and Prejudice followed in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1815. Two more novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously, in 1817. Her books did not sell a large number of copies, though she was praised by the literati, including dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Sir Walter Scott, who, in 1815, wrote a four thousand-word praise of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.

After her death and public acknowledgement of her authorship, her work remained in print, and by 1840, Jane Austen was being compared to Shakespeare by Thomas Babington Macaulay. As the nineteenth century continued, Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others all praised her work. (Charlotte Bronte was a well-publicized dissenter.
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