Austen Sequels, Retellings, etc. ~ An Embarrassment of “Riches” by Susan Karsten

Researching this subject taught me a new term and concept: Jane Austen para-literature. Oh my. This is a huge topic. I am only able to skirt around it, since to cover this topic completely would take years. The incredible array of sequels and retellings of the Austen ouvre is astounding. I, dear reader am a veritable babe in the woods when it comes to such reading opportunities. I have read a few spin-offs, no sequels, and no retellings of Jane Austen’s novels.

Is there a name for the phenomenon of the fact that a movie is never/rarely anywhere near as good as the book? Extrapolating that thought further tells me there could never be a sequel book as good as the original Pride and Prejudice.

Creative or knowledgeable people: Please come up with a name for the above phenomenon. Mention it in the comments.

Inveterate Austen sequel/prequel readersHave you read any great ones? If so, please leave the titles in the comments.

READ ON! Much good information coming your way in this post.

Please check out these websites for listings of sequels:  http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/austseql.html

http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/edoc/ia/eese/breuer/biblio.html

{The second site lists them alphabetically, but also has a listing of them in chronological order, so you could skip down to the more recent ones.}

There’s also a list on Goodreads of the popular ones:  http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/jane-austen-sequels

And another on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Jane-Austen-Sequels-Miscellany/lm/R1SHWQ7HPAS300

From the first link listed above, Ted Adams has a wonderful, comprehensive article slicing and dicing the terminology of Austen para-literature. I have used material from this article below. He said it so well.

“The adaptations, completions, sequels, pastiches and other attempts to tap into the Jane Austen industry (and one must include movie and television adaptations) devolve from a most noble sentiment: We have read the six published novels and we want more. We want more and different insights into both the novels and into the type of person that Jane Austen was.

Adaptations are transformations into another medium, e.g., stage, screen and television.

Completions are the finishing off of a novel fragment. Jane Austen’s two fragments, The Watsons and Sanditon have been attempted a number of times.

Sequels are a continuation of the action. To my knowledge, nobody has written a “prequel”, which would be a description of what occurred before the action started.

Pastiches are work written in the style of Jane Austen. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor is a pastiche. Its premise is that it is a notebook that Jane Austen kept concerning events during a period for which we do not have documentation.

Certainly no Jane Austen pastiche will ever be as good as the original, but that is to be expected. Mind you, when the standard is one of the best writers in the English language, to fall short of the mark is no disgrace. To write with wit, economy, great insight and develop complex and interesting characters is no mean feat. After all, we read Jane Austen with great pleasure 200 years later because she compares well not only with her contemporaries but also with ours and everybody who has come in between.

Personally, I enjoy pastiches for much the same reason that I sometimes enjoy Jane Austen criticism. Even when a pastiche fails or fall short, it can be interesting to try understand how or why it comes up short. And in the meantime, I’ve read a story that really has no requirement to be taken seriously.

The questions I would ask of a pastiche are the same that I ask of criticism: Is the work interesting/entertaining in its own right? How faithful it to spirit of Jane Austen’s novels? Does it provide insights into the work in question and/or the character of Jane Austen? ”

So, dear Austen-loving friends, I highly recommend reading the full text of Ted Adams article — not the least for the titles of para-Austen books he considers excellent! Thanks for visiting Regency Reflections.

Susan Karsten

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