Yesterday evening the other half and I took a delightful drive into the countryside about 30 miles away, and sat for a while in the Hampshire village of Chawton (whilst listening on the car radio to the commentary from the Centre Court where Heather Watson almost defeated Serena Williams.) It was a gloriously bright summer's evening, lambs bounding in the fields around the parish church and Chawton Hall, the Elizabethan mansion once owned by Jane Austen's brother - and model for the great house described in various of Jane's novels. I commented that the countryside looked Austenian for it did undoubtedly bring to mind scenes from such as Pride & Prejudice.

But then I thought again. My own enduring criticism of Jane Austen, is that her wonderfully articulated prose is obsessed with the drawing-room manners of the lesser gentry. And this was written at the time of the Napoleonic Wars - whilst the poorer classes of Britain, in her nascent industrialisation, were being treated with the most brutal disregard - transportations, hangings, floggings, imprisonment under the Combinations Acts, filth, squalor and disease in the new towns and cities etc.

So my feeling is that the word Austenian should be reserved to describe those people who continue to drink tea with their little fingers extended, but blind to the mayhem all around them.

Is this unfair on Jane Austen?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Brian Hitchcock, TRomano, Chenmunka, ScotM, Misti Jul 6 '15 at 14:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    Austenien makes me think of what was in the books not some blindness to social situations. Dickensian doesn't mean 'contemptuous of the nobility' even though one might infer that of some characters. – Mitch Jul 4 '15 at 9:04
  • You think that's unfair? Have you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? – deadrat Jul 4 '15 at 9:10
  • @deadrat I haven't read it but I have seen it reviewed. Quite unnecessary I should have thought. One could have made a similar point almost, by juxtaposing Austen with a contemporary writer such as William Cobbett, or the later Dickens. – WS2 Jul 4 '15 at 9:20
  • 1
    It needs to be noted that there are fairly large organizations, both in Britain and the US, who regularly get together in parties and conventions to dress, act, and talk in "Austen style". I would consider a member of such a group to be an "Austenian". Of course, the word can also be used as an adjective for either Austen's style of writing or the culture depicted in her works. – Hot Licks Jul 4 '15 at 12:55
  • 1
    Austenian is no different from Hemingwegian or Orwellian or Dickensian. The form refers to traits, manners, themes, etc that are generally recognized as characteristic of the author. Once one has strayed into areas where there is no consensus opinion or where there is considerable debate (e.g. Jane Austen's Tory politics) then one doesn't use this sort of shorthand. – TRomano Jul 4 '15 at 13:21

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.