When the would-be novelist David Lassman handed in the thinly disguised beginnings of Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion to a dozen well-established British agents and publishing houses, he received a dozen rejection slips. Bloomsbury, the publisher who ten years previously had taken on Harry Potter, wrote back that the manuscripts had been read “with interest” but were not “suited to our list”. Only one editor remarked on the similarity between these manuscripts and those hallmarks of English literary art, Jane Austen’s novels.
The irony of this anecdote is evident. Austen’s novels have been translated, filmed and adapted (or “tradapted”) into all sorts of languages, media and cultures; there are time-travel, Hollywood & Bollywood, crime and zombie re-imaginings, apart from the inevitable eroticisation of the novels in fan fiction. She is the second most “tradapted” British writer after Shakespeare. “Tradaptation”, says Michel Garneau, describes “the ways in which canonical texts are invested with new meanings in an attempt to force the target culture to confront itself through exposure to the rewritten source text”. It is some of these rewritings and confrontations that we aim to explore in this seminar.
You should at least be familiar with Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion as we will focus on tradaptations of these novels.