Posts Tagged ‘symbolic women’

Woman Knitting (n.d.)

Dear friends and readers,

For our fifth subject, we have a woman painter about whom little is known. Her portraits are not of upper-class people, she does not reach any lessons, nor attempt to entertain or amuse. Her paintings fall under the rubric of “absorption” so long ago described by Michael Fried (“Absorption: A Master Theme in French 18th century painting, ECS, 9:2 [1975-76]:139-77); by contrast, one could also say (as Nochlin does) that Duparc’s gift was for “the fleeting moment of evocative expression.” Duparc is said to have died leaving 41 paintings in her studio; only four works are surely attributed to her. Thus we are fortunate in that my sources provide 5 reproductions, though two in black-and-white, and one doubtful. I choose her for the reason I started this project: I love what I have been able to see. She has deep feeling for the life and humanity of ordinary people.

My favorite is “La tricoteuse” above. Those who’ve seen her paintings testify to a “vivid immediacy.” I see the canvas breathing with flesh and blood-filled life. Just look at her soft-cloth working class clothes; her full body; the flesh tones match the tones of her clothes in another reproduced version. Duparc’s work (like Rosalba Carriera, but with less justification) has been likened to Chardin’s; to Greuze (but there is nothing salacious or titillating, no voyeurism); there is likeness to Nicolas Bernard Lepicie, only his subjects pose in front of us.

A Man with a sack of nuts (L’homme a la besace) who looks out at us shyly, with a self-contained self-deprecating yet slightly sad expression on his face; he is no longer young (n.d)

She was born in Murcia, Spain on October 15, 1726. Her father, Antoine Duparc was a sculptor who had come from Marseilles in 1720, married Gabrielle Negrela; they returned to Marseilles in 1730. Francoise was probably educated in her father’s studio. A couple of sources say she studied under Jean Baptiste van Loo (1684-1768), who worked in Aix-en-Provence in 1731, had studied in Paris and Italy, was in Marseilles twice (1735-36, 1742-45). However if so, she followed a different path; the story that Van Loo thought a painting by her was a copy of one by him is told by C.F. Achard in a book about illustrious men from the provinces. She is said to have moved from Marseilles to Paris, lived there with a sister, Josephe-Antonia, also a gifted painter. She appears to have had a brother of whom she was very fond who died young. Rumor also hath it she visited London, and there are records of exhibits of 3 paintings by Mrs Duparc in London in 1763, and again in 1766. But in both cases solid evidence is lacking and is contradictory. There is a record of her again in Marseilles in 1771, that she was made a member of the local academy in 1776; made her will in April 1778, when she is described as in bad bodily health. She died October 11, age 52.

Duparcs’ extant paintings combine portraiture with genre (domestic occupation). First, she Duparc endows her figures with great personal dignity. The seller of tisane (herbal tea, n.d.) looks at us as she works with a metal strainer:


The “Old Woman” (n.d.) turns to the right, crosses her reddened arms and hands; she might be a servant, with a natural reserve. In all these paintings there is great care in transmitting a quality of thick cloth.


In Billioud’s discussion he tries to make neat patterns of complementary iconography (old and young), but from these four it does not seem to me there is any attempt at neat parallels and contrasts.

The source for what is known is Joseph Billioud, “Un peintre des types populaires: Francoise Duparc de Marseilles (1726-1778), Gazette des beaux-arts, 20 (1938):173-84; a secondary source is the enthusiastic Philippe Auquier, “An Eighteenth Century Painter: Francoise Duparc,” Burlington Magazine, 6 (1905):477-78 (much gush and some leads, meaning paintings of English noblemen cited, but the evidence presented suggests they are not hers!). My main sources for reliable information, images and commentary thus far come from Ann Harris and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950 (pp. 171-73); Karen Peterson and J.J. Wilson, Women Artists (p 50); Nancy Heller, Women Artists.

Not unrelated: Maureen Mulvihill has alerted me to a coming conference on early modern women artists (scroll down for English; reprinted in my comments).


The “Head of a Young Woman” is in poor condition, and used to be attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze; Roger Gaud attributed it to Duparc. The lighting, facing frontwards, quietude seem like Duparc’s others, but the direct gaze where she accosts us seems to me more like Greuze. She is another figure who looks out at us shyly, but smiles.



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Alice Vikander as Vera Brittain bringing a telegram to Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer telling of Miss Lorimer’s brothers’ death (2015 Testament of Youth)

Dear Friends and readers,

Precisely a month ago, I wrote a blog on a fine documentary about the fashion designer and collector, Iris Apfel, promising to write blogs on those women’s films this summer that I managed to see. Defined narrowly as a film made by women, one where a major figure in the film, director, screenplay writer, the majority of the producers are women, I’ve only watched three thus far. Iris Apfe is a documentary by Albert Maysles. Defined broadly as a film deeply empathetic to women’s points of views with an admirable likable heroine at its center I’m into my sixth.

Iris, promotional shot for her outside the movie

On my life-writing political blog, Under the Sign of Sylvia II, I dealt (however briefly) with a superb re-make of Far from the Madding Crowd, with Cary Mulligan in the key role of Bathseeba derives from a novel by Thomas Hardy.

Carey Mulligan as Bathseeba with Jessica Barden as Liddy, her lady’s-maid, servant, helpmeet (2015 Far from the Madding Crowd)

The screenplay is by David Nicholls and the director Thomas Vinterberg, but what distinguishes the film is its presentation of Bathseeba as a pro-active competent intelligent entrepreneurial farmer-businesswoman; she is not a semi-sullen sex kitten (as was Julie Christie in part). I’ll Dream of You, featuring Blythe Danner, also has a male director and writer, Brett Haley and Mark Brasch, producers Haley and Rebecca Green, but its deep empathy with the lives of older women living alone, comic and realistic makes it a film whose audience is women.

A semi-comic serious scene of Carol with her support-group friends

Izzy and I saw another re-make this time of a 1970s TV BBC mini-series, Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain into a two-hour cinema film, comes closer to a true woman’s film as its scriptwriter is Juliette Towhidi, who was the central force in Calendar Girls and Death comes to Pemberley, not to omit The Jane Austen Book Club, from Karen Joy Fowler’s novel. It was deeply moving and I hope many people will see it and think of (or go see in order to frame the movie accurately) Towdhidi’s previous films.

I am hampered by my lack of memory of the TV mini-series in 1975 and lack of stills: it had 5 parts and was 275 minutes long, and I remember was much admired at the time — as the book is a masterpiece and it was a faithful progressive 1970s good film. This one was a mere 100 minutes. That a film is shorter need not make it inferior. The new Far from the Madding Crowd is much better than the old one; the 2007 Room with a View (by Andrew Davies) only some 95 minutes, a TV adaptation in some ways also better than the much lauded (perhaps overpraised) lush sensual Merchant-Ivory one, despised the especially effective performances of Denholm Elliot, Daniel Day-Lewis and Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter.

The young men voluntarily going off to be “heroes” — only one of the young male characters will return

The older mini-series focused on Vera’s career, her trouble getting to Oxford, and while it was filled with grief, much of the hard experience of war was put off-stage; it was decorous, discreet, repressed. The 2014 Testament of Youth, directed by James Kent, produced by Rosie Alison, is too romantic: but I suggest it be seen as expressionistic in the way of Towhidi’s Death Comes to Pemberley, the contrasts of lush green world and romance at the opening are meant symbolically with the wasteland and horror of the later parts, but it does work.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictures: Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain - Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham   Sony Pictures Classics Release.
There are many portrait shots of all the characters and landscapes of war, trains, devastation and impossibly idyllic green springs which then turn to autumn wastelands

Miranda Richardson as the Headmistress of Somerville is memorable. Anna Chancellor is there as Vera’s financee’s mother; Emily Watson plays Alice’s mother. Cyclical structure, women’s imagery, depth of emotional charge, all are here in all three. The new one is vitriolically anti-war. Indeed I am not sure that if you have recently experienced the death of a beloved person which you feel is the result of social neglect, norms, someone thrown away, this film might not leave you distraught. Both Izzy and I were near that towards the end. But it is also cathartic, as Alice Vikander turns her life around to work as an pacifist. It’s not a great film but made explicitly appropriate to our world of ceaseless imperialistic war today.

Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery has just about vanished after a week in my local moviehouses. It never played in DC itself and turned up in only one art cinema in Northern Virginia. I don’t know how it’s lasted in other areas of the US but if at all like Tamara Drewe, directed by Stephen Frears, screenplay Moira Buffini, produced by Alison Owen (which also played only in one art cinema in Northern Virginia at thee time), Gemma Bovery has hardly been shown and then vanished.

So my recommendation is probably to try it on Netflix, through streaming or a DVD. Like Tamara Drewe which is a re-write or updating of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Gemma Bovery is a rewrite of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and the result has been that the few American reviewers who noticed it, have disliked it as not sufficiently like Flaubert. Since it’s based on Posy Simmonds’s rewrite, that’s not surprising. What did surprise me when I went back to Simmons’s graphic novel is how little it is like the mood of Simmonds’s book, so perhaps this stubborn mistake is just as well.

Fontaine did take over plot points (like Gemma gains and loses weight): the house in France and much else tries to realize the cartoons of Simmonds’s graphic novel

In a way as to major story line, it is more like what people remember Flaubert’s novel for: a woman bored by her husband, takes unworthy lovers and ends up dead.

Neil Schneider is just one of three drop-dead beautiful males who turn out to be worthless (he plays the Rudolph role from Flaubert’s novel)

Only in the film the framing is a POV from Martin Joubert, a French actor Fabrice Luchini who watches from his shop and himself throws a central wrench in the proceedings out of jealousy and as far as the film allows us to see Gemma has no romantic delusions. Posy Simmons’s book is a deeply melancholy one with (to me) a thoroughly unpleasant heroine surrounded by awful people; Joubert (with a different first name) is deeply remorseful; the only bearable character is Charles, an underdog type. The book is as bitter as Flaubert’s novel ultimately is, only not misogynistic: everyone is an egoistic ultimately mean person, all masquerading as ever so liberal, arty, but above all (what counts) upper class in habitas, objects, taste.

Fontaine’s film is comic, ironic: she omits the first half of the novel which explains why Gemma and Charlie have come to France (so Gemma can escape Charlie’s first wife’s demands and her children and her own memories of a affair with one Larry, a vicious handsome type who is of course successful in the world).

Gemma and Joubert (Gemma Atherton also played Tamara Drewe)

The film might have been much better if it was as bitter as the book but then no one anywhere would have gone to see it. Instead it presents these awful people neutrally, blandly, and makes Gemma still an utterly irresponsible selfish woman artist through the perspective of a now self-deprecating lecherous Joubert who sees the incongruities of what’s happening, is wry about the motives of the English people who live upper class lives in picturesque rural France. Enough of Posy Simmons comes through — but I’m not sure the effect is not both misogynistic (the other women of the film are jealous and spiteful and cold) and far from delighted by super-handsome rakish males or older lecherous ones. It’s almost misanthropic which is what I thought Flaubert’s cool book ulimately was. It could be said Charlie is again the only endurable character except here he is, as in Simmons, useless except for his income and as a person who restores works of art. Why anyone would want to restore them for people who are so worthless inwardly is a question one might ask after watching the film. A number of the characters are involved in kitsche art: Gemma restores old houses to look like 19th century artisans’ huts for huge amounts of money.

It’s a woman’s satire, and (as a couple of feminist critics of Austen argued in the 1970s, e.g. Alison Sulloway of JA and the Province of Womanhood), is not directed at large “universal norms,” but empirical, revealing the hellhole of meaningless at the of core of daily behaviors.

I saw it with my friend Sophie who is Parisian French, and she said it captured some absurd norms of French life and laughed away again and again. The photography was so alluring, shots capturing painting like scenes; it ends on a still on a window looking out, a long-standing woman artist motif.

Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes just brought her baby home, Alex Kingston the new half-sister-in-law (2012 U/D, scripted and created by Heidi Thomas) — babies and children play a large role in both episodes I cover

I am probably cheating to include the second season of Upstairs Downstairs, the 40 year re-boot (to use Anibundel’s contemporary term) of the 1970s once much beloved Upstairs Downstairs, conceived by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins. We are three years since. But I am experiencing deep pleasure and new insight over the past few weeks by watching this new series and have already praised strongly the new version, and summarized Giselle Bastin’s film study (in Taddeo and Leggott’s anthology of film criticism, Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama) where Bastin finds series excellent: it deals openly and directly with the Nazi politics of the era. She says it has been much misunderstood because it’s not comic, but serious, realistic melodrama insofar as its genre allows. Tonight I want to endorse Heidi Thomas’s re-make by agreeing with Bastin. As with The Bletchey Circle (Agent Carter, with Hayley Attwell) had a close call for next season), a real disservice to womens’ films was done when the new Upstairs Downstairs was cancelled because the standard for ratings is not just very high, but there is a strong prejudice against women’s aesthetics and norms.

I’ve watched only the first two episodes of the six of the second season but since I’m trying to keep this blog as a concise survey, this helps my purpose as I’ve seen enough to recognize the high quality of the second season. It takes much further the characteristics of the first and moves away from the original 40 year old show altogether. First by unhappy chance Jean Marsh (Rose Buck) had a real heart attack and had to remove herself from the series, and with her removal, Atkins decided to go too. No longer are we remembering 40 years ago.

Mr Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough) has had another life beyond making sure the dinner proprieties are kept up

In the first episode of the second season the attitude of mind is seriously anti-war at the same time as all justice is done to a critique of why Chamberlain gave in. It’s done through having the central character (Keeley Hawes, very good — she is the core of the two hours), having her baby and having two young children; plus in the house they have a Downs Syndrome young woman brought in as a half-sister. They really did hire a Downs Syndrome girl – the way on Breaking Bad the son was a disabled actor. Alex Kingston joins the cast as a half-sister of Atkins (replacing her as an older woman in the house). The thematic center is a justification of conscientious objection (though the story of the new butler who turns out to have been a conscientious objector in WW10 which offers a juxtaposing perspective on the critique of Chamberlain (against war as war). Tragically the monkey left to the protection of Amanjit Singh (Art Malik) is killed because people have been so frightened by the propaganda about chemical warfare (a footman uses the poor animal as a guinea pig).


The second episode takes us into Hitler Germany’s betrayal of the peace pact, the story of an attempt to rescue German Jewish children, again features the Nazi leanings of the aristocracy and Duke of Kent (Blake Ritson plays the part) and brings back Claire Foy (Lady Percy) as disaffected, rootless, exploitative of servants, who I can see is nonetheless going to be a bitter tragic figure. This time the cook-housekeeper Mrs Thackeray (Anne Reid) attempts to re-join her family and finds as an older woman she is obsolete, not wanted, will be taken advantage of, and returns to her job for independence and appreciation of her art.

By contrast as the Indian ex-servant of Maud, Lady Holland, he tries to enact values he associates with her

There is a feast of films made by women, dealing intelligently with women’s issues, endorsing their lives, using a woman’s aesthetic available this summer. Don’t miss them. For myself later tonight I’ll be watching the third episode of the second season of the 2012 Upstairs Downstairs.


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Elizabeth Robins playing Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1891)

Dear friends and readers,

I must interrupt my series of blogs on the ASECS conference to recommend an excellent novel that I read this week: Elizabeth Robins’s The Convert (1907), developed out of her popular play, Votes for Women! When I was told it was a suffragette novel, I expected an overtly didactic text whose central character would be a politically active suffragette, preferably lower middle class; instead I found myself in a subtle realistic novel whose central character is an enigmatic upper middle class woman, Vida Levering, much of whose life (and the action of the novel until its last quarter) takes place in Oscar Wilde like luxurious residences, elite parties, and dinners featuring witty and complex characters. We begin with her visit to a pair of wealthy children, in a lavish nursery whom Vida is visiting and move on to her servant problem: her lady’s maid, gaunt and middle-aged, wants to quit in order to leap at a chance of marriage with a widower, a market gardener she’s never met (who has children for her to care for too). The cover of the first Feminist Press edition conjures up an appropriate image for the heroine:

The image is a reproduction of Cecilia Beaux’s After the Meeting

After a few minutes this did make sense: the leaders of the suffragette movement were often women with connections, money they had some control of, and enough sense of self, of esteem, of their own rights to demand power. If nothing else, who else could find the time to proselytize, organize, work for the vote. Would a poorer woman see the importance of the vote?

We begin seemingly in the world of Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, but as we listen on (the text is strongly dramatically imagined) we discover it’s more George Bernard Shaw whom Elizabeth knew fairly well at one point in her life. Interwoven with the upstairs nursery (and very snobbish stern nursery governess) and Vida’s private bedroom, we find ourselves in a political dinner party, on the surface an infinitely more intelligent, nuanced, detailed depiction of the world of Downton Abbey at a dinner, complete with (so much is missing from DA one does not know where to begin) connected politicians and semi-unacceptable people. Little is overtly explained so our curiosity is aroused. As they talk a subtle feminist and even egalitarian slant emerges. While Vida makes the point to the leading politician, Haycroft (probably intended to stand for a Tory prime minister) that the women at this function are enacting a Geisha form of life, amusing the men, there is also much in the scene that most women would want to be and to do: beautifully dressed, well-educated (Wollstonecraft would say they are mis-educated), admired, conversing, moneyed. Robins begins by bringing out the deep difficulty of reforming any society. These privileged women could not begin to see that anything but wealth and position matters, and if that is threatened in any way, it would be difficult to persuade them of the need for feminism — outside the sexual, there you might get them privately to admit to much misery. Every type of woman is gradually put before us in these first chapters. From hostess to guest, widow to a woman seeking a husband, to women trying to marry off daughters, to women seeking position in social pecking orders.

It’s the morning after and we see the home-life of Vida’s sister, Mrs Fox-Moore who was snubbed at the dinner party ad socially pathetic (acceptable only because she had made this good marriage), whom Vida is living with. They are at breakfast and the husband comes downstairs: he is a corrosive quiet tyrant over his wife and makes her life miserable. The point of the chapter is to dramatize how if someone is given full power over someone else he or she will usually use it and in unkind ways. Mrs F-M has a sickly daughter Doris whom the father dotes on — like last night’s company he despises his wife because she does not know how to manipulate others, and is overtly weak before him. We hear ofMrs F-M’s satisfaction from charity work which Vida objects to as what these poor people want is not sermons or entertainment uplifting or not, but real help: solid money to make their life different and opportunities for decent employment. That’s not said but it’s implied. Quite a difference from Dickens’s mockery of Lady Bountfiuls as bullies.

A visit to a Brideshead kind of house: Uland house and its mistress, Lady John — a full description of one of these rich houses and the people in them — some the same individuals we met at the dinner party. I could quite see Diana Quick as Lady Julia as one of these characters (from the 1981 film), as well as Jane Asher, the actress who played the upper class woman Charles Ryder marries, and Jeremy Sinden who played her brother though he is a caricature as Charles Keating, Rex, Julia’s philistine politician husband is not (and could be a characer in The Convert). Robins’s feminism continues by showing us Hermione Heriot who hides the least conventional thought, Lady Sophia who reminds me of Trollope’s Miss Dunstable but not a caricature, there’s a dog Joey, a Lord Borrodaile and Paul Filey presented as unusual and perhaps interesting. When all gather over tea we see Filey is absurd, flattering himself he is not conventional, he has written a useless book defending aesthetics as the basis of life. could this be Robins on Wilde? Filey does not seem Wilde like and is likened to Shelley. What happens is there erupts a discussion of the suffragettes which grates on Vida. Suffragettes are mocked as absurd lunatic disgusting and so on. Vida’s resistant reaction brings out a side of her publicly she had not before: she tells of a scene she saw of unemployed people protesting and a working man who was dragging a rich child on a toy horse on a string; he was the horse for the child. She escapes before she says any more to a garden and then hearing her cousin, Mary, very dull, is not well, hurries off on this excuse to get out of this luxurious set of self-indulgent people who conversation is deliberately mindless. The tone inimitable rich, ironic, it reminds me of Henry James (whom Robins also knew). Robins has one of her characters mention Rhoda Broughton whose I’ve not read but know Trollope recommended and others have. This is the kind of Victorian novel that academic critics sometimes try to turn earlier Victorian women’s novels into.

Well by the center of the novel our two heroines have shown they have social consciences, and their curiosity aroused, they attend a suffragette meeting. Mrs Fox-Moore does not return a second time, but allured and fascinated despite misgivings, Vida does — with her new lady’s maid. Apparently women of the upper or middling classes did not walk alone in the streets if they were conventional. The lead-in to the first meeting showed the police becoming belligerent, derisory, obstructionist to our heroines — who never experienced anything like this before.

The meetings seemed to me to function two ways. Directly the words the suffragettes speak are ways of speaking to the audience of the book. They make the suffragette argument: how miserable are most women’s lives (working long hours, for little pay, endless children) with no power to alter this, while they have to listen to absurd rhetoric about being on pedestals and the like. There are a strong socialist admixture: the speakers all bring out the poverty and abysmal conditions of the working and lower middle class and make the analogy with chartism and men’s movements to gain the vote, and say these were efficacious. There’s now a labor party. The strongest speaker is probably intended to be a mirror of a real women: Emmeline Blunt she’s called.

We are also to experience how hostile crowds were. Most of the time I’ve gone to any political rally the people attending were people for the party. The last time I went to rally with hostile people about were demonstrations against Vietnam. Robins does justice to the kind of withering and abusive rhetoric women were subjected to, how they were mortified by a complete lack of respect. We see how odd their dress: one woman speaking is a widow with four children. She points out when a set of children lose their father they are left with the mother to try to care for them, usually in desperate circumstances and the children have no opportunities. When they lose their mother, they are unless taken in by a family, put to workhouses. Men don’t take their responsibility, will not mother. Most effective is how the women strain, what an emotional strain it is to talk above and against such a crowd. That the women get some respect, are listened to some of the time is remarkable. You see that ridicule was tried against the suffragettes, but the cause, the misery and needs of half the population (and their children suffering with them) was too important so it didn’t work

The first part of the novel was a perspective which showed her ironic realization of the circumstances and realities of her powerless life against men’s desires, wants, needs, demands; children are just fitted in as what men want too. She is now being converted. Amusingly she shows the little daily routines that kept upper class family members in their place. I noticed in Downton Abbey that everyone obeyed the dinner gong. You had to give up so many hours a day to eat and dress for it too. The servants had to cook and serve the meal. The gong in emerges as a technique for repressing and controlling the behavior of the whole household.

A photo of a suffragette demonstration (ca. 1910)

The emphasis in this central and to near the end of the novel is on demonstrations — of course such scenes make for drama but you could have scenes of suffragettes talking together. There is one between a Miss Claxton and Vida Levering, but when it comes time for the woman to tell the story of her life, Robins punts. We get very few details about the misery of ordinary working women’s lives; what she does tell is how when in prison women were somehow treated in a sexually disgraceful, humiliating or mortifying manner. Probably made to endure public overt harassment — it does not sound like rape. They were kicked and heads banged — that’s mentioned. Women did not get the vote until after WW1 in 1918 and in 1828 universal suffrage included women. I know there was no other way to show and try to make your desire felt. Mass demonstrations of men in Ireland and again in London and around England indirectly led to the extension of the franchise — women can’t threaten implicitly in the same way. It’s indirect: men hated to be bothered by women demonstrating, being violent, starving themselves and/or felt embarrassed by the exposure of their own power? But it was not enough: the whole experience of WW1, the breakdown of so many conventions, the death of so many men, had to intervene.

Slowly Vera begins to helping Blunt at demonstrations; coming in with her carriage and helping Blunt or others to flee. She’s followed about by Lord Borrodaile who appears to worry for her physical safety. These scenes are used to make it an astute politically aware novel. The depictions of the speeches include dialogues between Vida and Ernestine Blunt where you see how Robins understood what makes people respond to a political figure and what brings out an effective active response and what people just don’t care about, or refuse to recognize can be changed. Especially good is the mockery of the men — what they say, how what they care about women is their looks and little else. One woman who presents a real intelligent case of how women workers suffer from lethal conditions fails to get any attention as she’s hitting emotions of indifference; another intuitively seeks political power in her speeches and appeals more; a third in ordinary life is fine but up on a bench and she’s perceived intuitively as a weak target and humiliated.

She begins to accompanied by younger upper class women who are idealistic (reminding me of Lady Sybil Crawley): one, Jean, comes with her protective suitor who she is eager not to offend by her behavior, but wants there as a protector as well as for moral support.

As Vida leaves her upper class life, people become willing to talk about her, and fissures open up so the enigmatic feel of the character is explained. It seems that as a young woman Vida “left her father’s house” (the language so reminiscent of Richardson’s Clarissa): was it an attempt at incest? did her father take a mistress openly? it matters. We are not told. A male friend who knew the family and had been kind, seduces and then takes her to live with him. The novel uses coincidence: it was Stonor himself. It seems he pushed her into having an abortion, and it is made plain that she didn’t want the abortion, she regrets it even now. I was surprised to discover that in the turn of the century a woman would talk about a fetus as a baby. I thought that was the result of recent anti-abortion rhetoric, Catholic beliefs that life and a soul start at conception; from the few mentions (but real enough) I have come across in the Renaissance (Veronica Gambara’s letters where she had miscarriages) and later 17th through 18th century, until quickening the pregnancy (not called that) was not thought to be a baby; after quickening few aborted, very dangerous. As I said, these 1890s novels bring out thoughts one never heard at the time (and often do not now). Vida think had she had a child, she’d have more to live for today.

In Daphne Phillips’s Women’s Fiction, 1945-2005 she describes a 1960s type of women’s novel as the single mother novel. These are books where the heroine becomes pregnant outside marriage; in just about all the heroine chooses to have the child and the novel is about the burden and complications and rewards that ensue. Philips says an American survey in 1959 of documentable (middle-class) women who got pregnant outside marriage showed only 2% chose to carry the pregnancy through to birth. Novels described include Lynne Reid Banks’s The L-Shaped Room (filmed 1962), Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone (filmed 1969 as A Touch of Love), Nell Dunn’s Up the Junction (filmed 1967 as Poor Cow).

Well the crown or denouement of the book has Vida getting on the bench herself and speaking publicly. She holds her own. Not that she achieves much that we can see — but it’s an addition, however small; she is a lady getting up there. But its climax, final scene reverses the emphasis back to private life. The last chapter shows the novel’s origin in a play. It reads like some final confrontation in an Ibsen play or Shaw — Vida and Stonor engaged in ahn impassioned debate over their shared past. He feels guilty about what happened, but to him she has become an unacceptable woman; he wants the young woman, Jean, whom he is engaged to be as sheltered as possible and we see while at the demonstration, how she is by training and disposition heeding all he says and will obey him. Unlike Trollope, Stonor does not go on about purity and the “beauty of innocence;” that is the underlying demand, but the overt thing he wants is a dependent woman who does not know how to cope with hard realities alone. We have been told by some of the other upper class women how Vida’s sister made a good marriage; we have seen how she is bullied so the future before Jean may not be any different. Here is our Shavian happy ending. A remarkable book,


George Moore’s Esther Waters edited by David Skilton

I’ve read only few novels from this era about or by “new women” (emancipated in some way, women who worked for money outside the home) or presenting the realities of the time in new reformist ways: George Moore’s very great Esther Waters (and novella, Albert Nobbs); Anna Lombard by Victoria Cross, a pseudonym used by Anna Sophie Cory, sister to “Laurence Hope,” aka Adela Cory who married and lived in India (where she and Vivian and another sister were born) and wrote popular poetry depicting female sexuality, sensual desire through pseudo-Indian imagery. As I recall in Anna Lombard the heroine pressured into either having an abortion or giving up the baby to caretakers knowing that the baby may be let die — by the husband or man who deigns to marry her; the book seems to endorse the idea that a man is right to refuse to be father to another man’s child and it is somehow unmanly for him to have been involved with her while she was pregnant by another man. What is shameful is he thinks of her as owned by him and orders her to kill a child. Esther Waters in Moore’s novel saves her baby from this at great sacrifice to herself; the pressure is economic and socially; she is regarded as a social outcast. These are books that should be better known. Hence this blog.

These “new woman” novels bring out into the discussably open for the first time realities not discussed even today — or skewed when discussed. So the first time out you can see attitudes blurted out which the person has not learned to hide.

The cover photo for Suffragette Sally (ca. 1910 photo)

Elizabeth Robins’s book is a cross-over between novels which focus on the private sexual lives of women and novels retelling the public world and activities of the suffragettes. A good Broadview edition (with an introduction about the suffragette movement, explaining why they had to resort to violence), Gertrude Colmore’s Suffragette Sally, edited by Alison Lee. One that sounded interesting is “by Lillie Devereux Blake, an American suffragist who wrote a novel, Fettered for life or Lord and Master. Blake wrote this to educate– [as in Mary Wollstonecraft] the emphasis on education — women in how greatly the law was stacked against them in marriage. Blake worried that young women were woefully uninformed about the lack of rights of married women, even in the 1870s. Blake worried that young women were woefully uninformed about the lack of rights of married women, even in the 1870s. Domestic abuse was exerted economically and legally. Blake wanted to show women that they were in great danger from husbands because the law worked from the premise that a husband would protect a wife — therefore, whatever a husband did, even hurting her physically, was seen through the lens of protecting her, keeping her line. Laws protected abuse, so there was no real justice. Also, men could easily circumvent laws as women didn’t know the law and lack finances to sue. To the 19th century suffragist movement, the vote equalled protection from domestic violence and hence from death’ (quoted from a posting by Diane Reynolds to WWTTA).

I’ve sent away (bought through Bookfinder.com) Blake’s novel. To be honest, I am more drawn to the novel of the era which focuses on women’s sexual exploitation.

From the cover of Harman’s Feminine Political Novel: upper class women caged upstairs watching Parliament: Trollope’s Madame Max refuses to go because she is locked out and in

One good book by a single author that studies women’s political novels as such, The Feminine Political Novel in Victorian England by Barbara Leah Harman includes Gaskell’s North and South, Robins’s The Convert as well as Bronte’s Shirley. It bothers me that Harman choses to cover Gissing’s The Year of the Jubilee and Meredith’s Diana of the Crossroads — were there no other women’s political novels in the 19th century? What about Henrietta Stanndard’s A Blameless Woman (about a women tricked into bigamy)? Harman with Susan Meyer has edited a collection called The New Nineteenth-Century: Feminist Reading of Underread Victorian Novels: this has good essays on Bronte’s Agnes Grey (a wonderfully bitter book), Geraldine Jewsbury’s The Half-Sister, Oliphant’s Miss Majoribanks, Eliza Lynn Lynton’s The Rebel of the Family, Sarah Grand’s Heavenly Twins, Mary (Mrs Humphry) Ward’s Marcella (about a home-visiting nurse) and Sir George Tressady, and Flora Anne Steele’s On The face of the Waters (Anglo-Indian, about rape). There is another essay on Elizabeth Robins’s fiction (she wrote 14 novels altogether, as well as plays), Angela John’s “Radical Reflections: Elizabeth Robins’s “The Making of Suffragette History and the Representation of working Class Women,” and on “Henrietta Stanndard and the Emancipation of Women, 190-1910″ by Owen Ashton in The Duty of Discontent: Essays for Dorothy Thompson (wife of E.J., she wrote The Outsiders), Robert Fyson and Stephen Roberts. The volume includes “Who wrote The Northern Star?, essays on the experience of the workplace by women, on lunatic asylums (what class person was put in there?), rural resistence, poverty and the poor law, chartism (all suffragette topics).

A familiar photo of Robins at the height of her career and beauty

There are two biographies of Elizabeth Robins: one, Angela V. John, Elizabeth Robins: Staging a Life, takes her long life into her later obscure years.

Elizabeth Robins in later life

The other by Joanne E. Gates, Elizabeth Robins, 1862-1852 which appears to center on her central active years as socialite, actress and woman of letters and the theater (her pseudonym was Claire Raymond), suffragette. See comments for Nina Auerbach’s review.

We are on Women Writers through the Ages@ Yahoo (WWTTA) embarked on reading Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women. These are Wollstonecraft’s great-great-granddaughters.


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Marine Pavilion, Brighton, with 1801-2 ground plan

Dear friends and readers,

We can understand these two letters most clearly by reading them as a pair, utterance and answer, antiphony. We are in danger of accepting and then justifying the lack of any sense of what makes for honest art in Clarke’s previous and this letter as “what everyone does,” unless we have before Austen’s direct rebuttal. So let’s start with the two texts in tandem and then read them as a conversation inside the conversation on Janeites about them:

138(A). From James Stanier Clarke, Wednesday 27 March 1816, Pavilion

Dear Miss Austen,

I have to return you the Thanks of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent for the handsome Copy you sent him of your last excellent Novel — pray dear Madam soon write again and again. Lord St. Helens and many of the Nobility who have been staying here, paid you the just tribute of their Praise.

The Prince Regent has just left us for London; and having been pleased to appoint me Chaplain and Private English Secretary to the Prince of Cobourg, I remain here with His Serene Highness & a select Party until the Marriage.’ Perhaps when you again appear in print you may chuse to dedicate your Volumes to Prince Leopold: any Historical Romance illustrative of the History of the august house of Cobourg, would just now be very interesting.

Believe me at all times
Dear Miss Austen
Your obliged friend
J. S. Clarke.
Miss Jane Austen
at Mr Murrays
Albemarle Street

38(D). To James Stanier Clarke, Monday 1 April 1816

My dear Sir

I am honoured by the Prince’s thanks, & very much obliged to yourself for the kind manner in which You mention the Work. I have also to acknowledge a former Letter, forwarded to me from Hans Place. I assure You I felt very grateful for the friendly Tenor of it,
& hope my silence will have been considered as it was truely meant, to proceed only from an unwillingness to tax your Time with idle Thanks. —

Under every interesting circumstance which your own Talents & literary Labours have placed you in, or the favour of the Regent bestowed, you have my best wishes. Your recent appointments I hope are a step to something still better. In my opinion, The service of a Court can hardly be too well paid, for immense must be the sacrifice of Time & Feeling required by it.

You are very, very kind in your hints as to the sort of Composition which might recommend me at present, & I am fully sensible that an Historical Romance, founded on the House” of Saxe Cobourg might be much more to the purpose of Profit or Popularity, than such pictures of domestic Life in Country Villages as I deal in — but I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem. — I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter. — No — I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way; And though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.-

I remain my dear Sir,
Your very much obliged & very sincere friend
J. Austen
Chawton near Alto,” April 1 st – 1816-
[No addressJ

Diana Birchall chose to deal with each letter separately; here she is informative about the first:

It’s a little confusing to deal with Deirdre’s numbering of the letters.  Letter 138A is Rev. Clarke to Jane Austen, written on 27 March 1816, and  Letter 138D is her reply, written on  1 April. Where are B and C I don’t  know. But let’s look at this exchange.

James Stanier Clarke writes from the Pavilion at Brighton. Remember that the domes we associate with the Pavilion had not yet been erected at that date. The structure was still a rather grand farmhouse, with huge stables and some Eastern art, but the work of turning it into a palace was barely begun. Still, it’s where the Prince Regent’s court was at the moment.  Clarke wrote to convey the Prince’s thanks for the handsome presentation volume.  “Lord St Helens and many of the Nobility who have been staying here, paid  you the just tribute of their Praise.” Actually the Prince had just left for London, and perhaps the real purpose of the letter was for Clarke to announce to his friend his new appointment as Chaplain and Private English Secretary to the Prince of Cobourg. This of course was Prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg, about to come to England to marry Princess Charlotte, the Prince  Regent’s daughter, which happened on  5 May  at Carlton House. Here Clarke  makes his famously absurd suggestion, “Perhaps when you again appear in  print you may chuse to dedicate your Volumes to Prince Leopold; any Historical Romance illustrative of the History of the august house of Cobourg, would just now be very interesting.” Finishing with an effusive flourish, he directed the letter to Jane Austen c/o Murray, and it had to be forwarded to Henrietta Street, and then Chawton.

Will look at Jane Austen’s reply later –


Then my commentary: Austen’s response to Stanier Clarke’s letter shows that if his suggestion is not to the ambitious author who can churn out what’s wanted for money and fame “what everyone would do if they could,” it is wholly intolerable to Austen — which he should know. He has spent time with her, she has said in a previous letter and perhaps face-to-face, my dear Sir, these themes are not themes I can write on nor am I comfortable with, he has presumably read the passages on how justifying the church as a career requires real work awakening moral and social consciences alike.

Imagine your self with a friend and a friend makes plain some attitude she has: do you blithely ignore it and repeat your urgent suggestion as if she had never spoke.

I hope not. If you do, you in effect (unless you’re a parent and moralizing or think you have the authority to urge something which goes against your child’s character because the child cannot break off relations, is younger, possibly dependent) are careless of your friend’s feelings or whether you irritate him or her. It does not make me doubt the sincerity of Clarke’s friendship in the sense that he really thinks one can churn out novels: it makes me wonder if he paid any attention to Emma , which it is right to point out he does not even name. In his previous he admitted he had not begun to read it or read very little thus far. His descriptions of her novels show some understanding of their value: he anticipates Scott’s main praise — “there is so much Nature — and excellent Description of character in everything you describe.” But his likening MP to slightly idiotic or vacuous descriptions of his own of clergyman makes one wonder if he really thought these were serious books — or just woman’s romances. 

So to his suggestion:

Perhaps when  you again appear in print you may chuse to dedicate your Volumes to Prince Leopold: any  Historical Romance illustrative of  the History of the august house of 
Cobourg,  would just now be very interesting.

Austen replies (and the honesty plainness and fullness of the reply is poignant since she so rarely does give herself away like this: she has it seems given him the respect of a friend:

You are very, very  kind in  your  hints as to the sort of Composition which might recommend me at present,  & I am fully sensible that an Historical  Romance,  founded on the House  of Saxe- Cobourg might be much more to the purpose of Profit  or Popularity, than  such pictures of domestic Life in Country Villages as  I deal in – -but  I could no more  write  a  Romance  than an Epic Poem. — I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, &  if it  were indispensable for me to keep it up  & never relax  into laughing at myself or other people, I am  sure  I  should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter. –No — I must  keep to my  own style & go on in my  own Way;5  And though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in  any other.- 

Austen is not treating him the way she does the Countess of Morley; in her “your Ladiship’s,” she shows she regards herself as of a much lower rank and does not expect the countess really to regard her as an equal. She apparently did expect Stanier Clarke to listen to her. She here gives one of the most valuable of all her statements about her fiction.

Why doesn’t he? I suggested to a man like him the life of sincerity and integrity is unreal; he can’t conceive of it. I now suggest on top of his maybe finally he didn’t respect her art. We must return to his first paragraph: He may have been the kind of person who respond intensely to his surroundings so we have to remember (as we shall see Jane does) he is in this courtier like place where for a person like himself (in effect a sort of upper servant, equivalent of a governess), who has just achieved a post and salary and place with Leopold of Cobourg, the man who was to be married to Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, the girl who it was thought would be queen, and so father of the next royal set. In the event she died from a horrible childbed experience. He is just full of pride, and has been puffed up as he has puffed others up for several days. I’ve no doubt one of his purposes was to boast about his new place – which as we shall see she tells him point blank she regards as one demanding such a sacrifice of thought and feelings that (it’s implied) barely worth it.

Here again is his boasting intended to make Austen feel all is not over with the list-servs (though a friend of hers has just died):

Lord St. Helens and many of the Nobility who have been staying here, paid  you the just  tribute of their Praise. The Prince Regent has just left us for London;  and having been  pleased to appoint me Chaplain and Private English Secretary to the  Prince of Cobourg.

Her reply was originally from a religious perspective much harsher than the one she sent.

She sent this:

Under every  interesting  circumstance which  your  own Talents & literary Labours have  placed  you in, or the favour of the Regent bestowed,  you have my best wishes. Your recent appointments I hope are  a step to  something  still  better.  In my opinion, The service  of  a  Court can hardly  be  too  well paid,  for immense must be  the  sacrifice  of  Time  &  Feeling  required by  it. 

Given that Clarke’s a literary man (who wants to be published) to get the favor of such a person is a guarantee of it, so good. She hopes he will get something better — which if he read her words carefully (which I doubt he did) would seem strange to him. How could he get anything better than the prospective husband of a queen. Maybe she thinks chaplain is not that respected an office really (remember how Mary Crawford looks at it and says others do), but also it’s not likely to further a writing career. Finally that last line – I take it to mean that like Fanny Burney she regarded time at court as a death in life, preventing her from doing what makes life worth while

The original version points to the continual hypocrisy   these positions required: For once LeFaye tells us something to the point:

In my opinion not more surely should They who preach Gospel, live by the Gospel, than they who live by a Court, live by it – & live well by it too; for the sacrifices of Time & Feeling they must be immense.

In other words, at a court the central of religion to be truthful and moral is not possible because you must continually be lying in some way or other so outside the court they had better live by the gospel for real to make up for the Immense sacrifices of time and feeling.

Time shows this is a literary thought for the Bible emphasizes truthful feeling not time. Austen would hate to give up her writing time to be living at that Pavilion. 

Austen is aware of how much she disliked his letter and how hers contradicts his at every point and sometimes deeply so her opening is very courteous, courtier-like one might say, but not untruthful. In her opening she excuses herself for putting off writing back — she thinks that to him this several month interval between his letter of December (still unanswered) would be slightly insulting: after all is he not chaplain to … living with these big shots, did he not tell these great people paid tribute to her book. (I am not so convinced as others appear to be that the court group liked Emma — would they really? come now, a book where nothing happens but an old man eats his gruel and his daughter copes with him — would they even grasp the satire on her snobbery? her use of Harriet would seem to them nothing wrong at all. So what does she say? does she believe it. Not quite. She thanks him “for the kind manner in which you mention the Work.” She is aware she never answered his previous much more decent letter where he offered her a place to visit at the library; now 5-6 days have gone by since this last one and she just forces herself.

I assure You I felt very grateful for the friendly Tenor of it, & hope my  silence will have been considered as it was truely meant, to proceed only from an unwillingness to tax your Time with idle Thanks. —

She is not lying in the sense that he did praise her and repeat praise of her. She was grateful for his stance of friendliness but knows better than to listen to him literally.   He meant well, he means well by his materialistic point of view to her. But all she can offer are “idle Thanks” of a woman who can do nothing for him (that’s why her thanks are idle).

It matters not if the average ambitious person would understand Stanier Clarke’s offer, Jane Austen is not such a person, her books do not come out of such outlooks and she realizes he can’t get that. Yet she does forgive him as she knows there are far worse fools and meaner people. He has after all paid her the compliment of using her to flatter the Prince Regent by connecting him to an author who was being recognized however slowly as having something fine in her books – that’s why Murray took her and keep the relationship up as best a busy publisher could.

From Diane Reynolds’s reading of the first and second letter:

The ostensible reason for this letter is to thank JA for the advance copy of Emma sent to the PR. Oddly, he refers to it not by name, but with the generic boilerplate, “your last excellent novel.” Does he even remember it’s called Emma?

All through the letter, Clarke’s worldview shines through, leading to the question: how sincere is he in his “friendship" towards Austen? Does he really admire her works or does he sense, with the instinct or calibration of a professional courtier (or in our world, marketer) that the wind is blowing in her favor, and he wants to be on board  with a rising star? Or is it both admiration and calculation? … Clarke does sound uncomfortably like Mr. Collins in this letter in his language towards higher-ups …

I couldn’t agree more with what Ellen’s interpretation says, which certainly echoes my own: that regarding her vocation (what she was supposed to do with her life) Austen had a rare integrity, a singleness of purpose. She knew what she was meant to be–a writer– and what kind of writer she was meant to be … When she says she could only begin such a romance if her life depended on it and even then probably not get beyond the first chapter, she is not joking.

Another voice in this conversation (written earlier) appeared on WWTTA: Fran to whom we may give almost the last word:

I can’t help feeling the fact that she wrote this letter on All Fools’ Day may have been an example of her warped sense of humour as well. She’d gone as far as dedicating Emma to the Prince that year, but I’m rather glad she finished Persuasion before her untimely death, rather than attempting the kind of sycophantic potboiler Clarke suggested.

To be fair, Austen did write a parody version of the sycophantic potboiler, which has been typed out on Republic of Pemberley and includes a father modeled on Stanier Clarke whose adventures

comprehend his going to sea as Chaplain to a distinguished naval character about the Court, his going afterwards to Court himself, which introduced him to a great variety of Characters and involved him in many interesting situations, concluding with his opinions on the Benefits to result from Tithes being done away, and his having buried his own Mother (Heroine’s lamented Grandmother) in consequence of the High Priest of the Parish in which she died refusing to pay her Remains the respect due to them. The Father to be of a very literary turn, an Enthusiast in Literature, nobody’s Enemy but his own …


As Chapman’s notes show (interestingly, from Austen’s own marginalia), Stanier Clarke is not the only acquaintance and friend Austen burlesques in this parody


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Moment of hope for narrator (Martina Gedeck)

The despairing end as she ceases to write her report any more

Dear friends and readers,

Marlen Haushofen may not seem a daughter of Jane Austen, but she is certainly a sister to Anne Radcliffe and the visionary women novelists emerging at the time. If we see two types of women’s fiction emerge at the close of the 18th century, the realistic domestic fiction (often conservative) school of Austen, and the gothic-fantasy critique school identified first with Radcliffe and then Mary Shelley. The Wall is an extraordinary distopian/utopian story about which Doris Lessing was right to say it seems that it could only be written by a woman. Polser’s film Here is the core plot-design:

The novel’s main character is a forty-something woman whose name the reader never learns. She tries to survive a cataclysmic event: while vacationing in a hunting lodge in the Austrian mountains, a transparent wall has been placed that closes her off from the outside world; all life outside the wall appears to have died, possibly in a nuclear event. With a dog, a cow, and a cat as her sole companions, she struggles to survive and to come to terms with the situation. Facing fear and loneliness, she writes an account of her isolation, without knowing whether anyone will ever read it

Her friends driving off

When she first discovers she is cut off

She realizes or surmizes all the people in the world have died suddenly and mysteriously when she comes upon two elderly people frozen in mid-gesture. The scene is of course fantasy as a corpse would rot:



She cannot reach them as they are on the other side of the glass wall which seems to surround her. It is possible that she could get beyond it, but she would have to climb and walk hundreds of miles into a forest of mountains, and she knows instinctively she is safer in the house with all the things her friends (unknowingly) left her to provide herself with: wood, implements, seeds, pototoes. She worries about her lack of matches. She has a strong will to survive. Early on she says she is no longer young enough to want to kill herself.

The story occurs over a succession of seasons: it begins in summer and we watch the narrator live through two winters, and two summers, where she goes to live in a meadow and thinks she is in a paradise but there she mets the savage male who murders her dog


A Robinson Crusoe story? it doesn’t feel like it; it shows us the stoic comfortable survival of Crusoe with his loyal man Friday is a myth: Friday would have murdered the master. I sped half-way through Haushofen’s book and (because I just couldn’t resist) since the disk arrived yesterday from Netflix in the later afternoon just as I had had enough, I watched it later at night.

I found the Julian Polser’s film adaptation (the transposition or apparently faithful sort) a masterpiece equivalent of the masterpiece book; I was just gripped as our heroine (who seems to be another of these nameless women called just Frau) slowly realized that she was cut off from all other humanity and slowly evolved a family of animals.

dog (1)
Her dog Lynx

dog (2)
Cats, kitten is called Pearl

An important analogical text (even if improbably a source) is Randall Jarrell’s Animal Family: there is the same slow buildup of an animal community as family and friends/children. We see slowly evolve a family of animals and a fish (a mermaid for a mother) as they build a world and life for themselves. It too quietly critiques much in our society. It has lovely illustrations by Sendak. Unlike Jarrell though the ending of The Wall is devastating — let me say this much: from not far from the outset our narrator begins to talk of when Lynx , the dog who becomes her beloved, is dead, or after Lynx died and that makes for suspense, yet since there is no inkling of how this happens when it does, it is a shock.

On the other hand, in the film she twice turns on a radio in a car and hears a song about freedom. Paradoxically she is free — at liberty to live the way she wants. Only we see this liberty is illusory because it takes her such effort to stay alive and she has nothing to exercise her liberty on but the papers and writing implements she (conveniently) finds and writes on.

While the book and film may be called dystopian fantasy and is compelling that way, it is also a woman’s story too: while she has no one to obey, she is all alone and sad, and in natural response it seems she begins to develop a small family, a dog (who early on the book is referred to as having died at some later date — so immediately we worry), and stays alive (she feels) out of her responsibility to the dog, the cats (the mother cat kittens), a cow (and eventually bull and calf). She is delighted each time she comes upon another animal and brings home all but those she is forced to kill (with a shotgun she naturally knows how to use) and eat. She dislikes hunting but does it.

The novel and film are also critiques or mirrors of the world’s way of treating women and how women behave. We see our heroine enact the behavior this leads to: one scene shows us all the food she has grown, managed to cook and put in bowls. We see her eating amidst her animals who she provides for:


Since at the climax of the story, its tragic close, a man suddenly appears out of nowhere, ragingly violent with an ae who proceeds to murder apparently wantonly the bull and the dog, this confirmed my sense this is a woman’s story — men are the killers of our world. Haushofen also builds no world of people (like Charlotte Perkins’s Herland), but rather mirrors inner experiences of isolation, terror, the desire to escape, to find some peaceful place free of competition (mentioned early on as awful, the worst manifestation of the human spirit). Yes depression too: a story that images or captures a mood of deep depression. When our heroine partly in an effort to save her dog runs back to her cottage to get a gun and comes back and kills the man (but alas too late for the dog), she confirms the sense I have from the book one of its assumptions is we are better off without people. People are the worst, and the narrator thinks again and again how she is an alien in nature (unlike her animals) — but this seems wrong and unfair. She is as much as part of the natural world as they and they depend on her. The novel is a parable — the film emphasizes her de-sexed appearance and behavior — she is the hunter shooting deer.  It is of course unrealistic — for enough food does appear; the deer, all that she needs as a minimum to survive.

Sudden appearance of a murderous savage man

Her attempt to kill the man and/or save Lynx

Her grief for Lynx

I identified with her aloneness. The last 3 days and now this one I’m alone all day — except for my girl cat who is continually with me. She was sitting in my lap as I watched the movie and seemed to me a version of Lynx. The woman narrator adopts a stray cat who then has a long haired white kitten (who also dies as a natural victim) but the cats are not presented as companions. Well mine is and I do think to myself how I have an obligation to them to stay alive. It wasn’t cathartic for me nor therapeutic but rather an intense reliving of what I am experiencing just now.

Women are so isolated in our society by various structures: when your children are babies or young, the society structures itself to make you the constant caretaker and the renewed ferocious insistence on breast-feeding is a nailing down of the woman.  Why is widowhood so bad? becuase you have been put into a partnership dependent on a man often — not necessarily financially any more but he is often the leader.

Here is Fran’s explication from Women Writers Across the Ages:

One of the most obvious is the novel as a feminist critique of gender roles and especially the position of women in Austrian society as Haushofer had experienced it up to her writing of the novel between 1960 and 1962. The Austria of that time was still a very much male-dominated, highly conservative, catholic society, where women were often marginalized and expected to adhere to their traditional roles oriented around the (in) famous three Ks, Kinder, Küche, Kirche – children, kitchen and church – and rapidly ran against walls of inacceptance that were difficult to overcome if they tried to break out and expand into other non-traditional spheres of activity. 
Haushofer experienced this as oppressively claustrophobic, stultifying and frustrating, both as a child and as an adult. As a child, when her highly religious mother forced her to attend a convent boarding school, the cloistered restrictions of which came as a complete shock to one used to playing in the freedom of Austria’s beautiful countryside (her unromantic love of which is everywhere evidenced in the novel); as an adult in her role as a stay-at-home provincial wife and mother, whose household chores made finding the time to write and realize her artistic ambitions very difficult indeed. In both instances she reacted with serious depression and physical illness. The confining or excluding wall can be seen as a projection of such feelings and experiences as mentioned yesterday.
On the other hand, as Haushofer herself said, the wall seems to be not only negative in effect. Being cut off from the rest of society means that the significantly unnamed narrator, whose rmemories of her old life beyond the wall indicate an unfulfilled, already alienated existence, is thrown back on her own resources to survive and is able to rise to the occasion and carve out an autonomous, if precarious, existence and new life and identity for herself as a guardian and preserver of her corner of nature and the animals that she has found there. 
This goes hand in hand with a critique of the kind of education she’d received as a woman on the other side of the wall that had ill-equipped her for such a task.
The novel can then also be seen as one of painful female self-discovery and self-realisation, with the narrator going through various stages of numbing shock, denial, realisation, confrontation and transformation to acceptance of her new role and situation, if one sometimes clouded by the kind of suicidal thoughts that she experienced at the beginning.
You mention the violent incursion of the male survivor who irrationally kills the narrator’s animals which both would actually need to survive and who is in turn killed by her, though she’d previously been reluctant to kill anything even to survive. Haushofer seems to be building up a gender oppostion here: the female in the classic role of caretaker and protector of life who lives with nature and the male as the aggressor who kills and wants to dominate nature and others and has to be stopped from doing it. The incursion of the male infects her with his violence, too.
The wall takes on a double quality here as well, at once marginalizing and excluding, but also normally protecting from potential predators and aggressors.
Male war machinery is also presumed responsable for the catastrophe that created the wall and petrified the people and animals on the other side in the first place. In this respect the novel can  very much be seen as an anti-war novel and topical critique of the kind of patriarchal society that leads to such.
At the time of writing, the Berlin Wall was built (1961), arbitrarily and randomly cutting off people from their families and neighbours, the Iron Curtain was  firmly in place, the Cold War at its height and the Bay of Pigs incident had raised fears of an imminent war and nuclear or biological catastrophe.
Haushofer’s reaction was to produce a novel that was both a kind of Robinsonade and warning end- of-days scenario, criticizing so-called civilisation and what it had already done and threatened to do to people, nature and the ecology.
Interestingly, too, it’s also a novel about writing. As a housewife Haushofer seldom had a lot of time to write and didn’t have a room of her own to do it in, normally writing at the dining or kitchen room table. The narrator in the novel, who develops increasingly androgynous features in the course of the novel, has oodles of time, plenty of room of her own, but probably no audience other than mice to write for and at the end no more paper to write on either. It’s like a very macabre riff on Virginia Woolf, but I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.
Almost endless possibilities of interpretation and speculation

As we first see her in the film, the first shot: she is with her friends in a fine car apparently off for a holiday in a rural retreat

In the middle of the movie somewhere: she is washing her face after hard work

After I finished the novel, I watched the movie twice and was really gripped: the novel differs from the movie in ways one might expect. The movie opens as a flashback with the heroine at her book writing and then we move backwards to how the situation first happened: we are told slightly more about Hugh and Luise in the movie. The book moves forward with lots of tiny flashbacks interwoven throughout. There are more animals in the book, and consequently more losses: the movie leaves out the birth of Tiger, the tom-cat, the developed relationship and how he disappears one day. She works very hard in both novel and book to survive: each stroke of a instrument, each killing of a deer, each harvesting, cooking is a tremendous effort and she show it physically. She becomes one with nature, but not de-gendered.


The movie succeeds in bringing out the deep individuality of the animals: each is individually filmed and as all but the cow and mother cat die, we grieve for them as valuable lives. This is a film that brings home to the viewer how animals have lives like humans through showing us the companionship of the animals and the central heroine.

The book weaves in thoughts she has of her life before: as a young woman, young mother, the sense of loss she had when her children started going to school and she was not able to help them, her dependence on her husband, and various less concrete thoughts — all really depressive and melancholy. They provide analogies and pointers to how to take the book as a parable which are not voiced in the movie. Most of all the horrifying  closing scene is much more prepared for with hints and memories, and the growing constant references to Lynx now dead, not being there any more, and then it is or feels much shorter.

We are also led to feel maybe she could have been smarter and not told the dog not to attack the man and maybe the man would not have been able to kill the dog. But that is her thought.  So the movie uses it more melodramatically, singly without qualification, and all at once with a big blow and then the ending is swift. I felt at the end of the movie what could be suggested is suicide, while at the end of the book it seemed to me obvious she carried on and on and on.

What the movie can do is provide alternations between silence and sound, the voice of the narrator thinking and her silent face looking on and remembering the scenes she’s lived through as she writes them down. The camera during moments of intense horror and sadness slows down the movement and the actress appears to float in air, to be part of a dream fragment. The music can be deeply melancholy with oboes and violins. often discordant and disjunctive, and again crash down with percussive hits to grate on us.

TakingLynxtobeburied (1)
Carrying Lynx tenderly to bury him

TakingLynxtobeburied (2)
Ceasing to write her reports

My gut feeling is the story whether conveyed through novel or film is deeply humanizing. That might sound paradoxical — for after all she is living without human beings and the only one to show up is savagely murderous – maybe his response to finding himself alone. But she grows and we do with a sense of pity and identification with the animals as presences every bit as valuable and varied as the human being at the center.  I don’t think it is a distopia or a utopia — at any rate it’s not a newly built world somewhere else but is the natural world we know only she’s walled in and has no people about; it’s fantasy because she just happens on just these animals she needs and can love and love her. I felt a strong sense of bonding — when she loses all the animals but the cow and the old cat I remembered how I have lost my husband, mother, father and am left with a daughter living with me, one further off and two cats. I have to survive and get along and I wasn’t doing very well in November; I am doing better with my new regime of sleeping and eating regularly.

There are two marvelous critique/explication/evaluations of the book and movie on-line: Laura Kapelari’s Feminist Utopia and Dystopia: Marlen Haushofen’s The Wall: Kapelari argues for the relevance of Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex and Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun; she tells of Haushofen’s life; she relates the fiction to events in WW2 and Austria. Lorraine Markotic in “Melancholy and Lost Desire in the works of Marlen Haushofen where Markotic explicates the sources and nature of depression for women in Haushofen’s novels. Markotic defines depression as the very loss of desire: by that mark I’d say our heroine does not seem a depressive, for no one ever worked harder to provide beautiful meals for herself and her animals; to keep the room tidy and neat, to adhere to a schedule of normal day and night time, to write, to wait (it seems) in hope for some change, someone to come.

Julian Polser has also discussed on line what he thinks the most significant incidents, the universality of the film and difficulties in filming it. He finds the woman’s developing reaction isolation to be central to what happens to her, and seems to find her unhinged by its end.

She carries on alone for a while before finally stopping and saying she will join the white crow


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Werefkin, Woman with Lantern (1912)

Dear friends and readers,

A variation on the 10 important books to you that made the rounds, only absurdly obtuse. On Women Writers across the Ages one of members noticed one of the year-round-up lists which purported to list the 10 serious important books of the 20th century, presumably of course non-gendered. It was alas no surprise to discover not one was by a woman.

So we pretty quickly came up with a counterlist.

Here’s mine, w ith proviso I am focusing on books written in English though below you will find cited in translation a couple I do know

1. Christina Stead — The Man who Loved Children. An epic book which presents a married woman’s life for real. If it be objected it’s so much a woman’s point of view, read Nancy Miller on _Subject to Change_. All 10 males books are from male points of view, especially the ones on love. This is the one that leaps to mind as the most central serious book by a woman across the 20th century: abortion, infanticide, implicit male abuse, finances, how to live, move, it’s all there.
Winifred Holtby’s South Riding the same sort of book and it has been adapted twice (13 episodes a milksop kind and stronger by Davies but given only 3 hours for it).

Then I don’t have an ordering so in no particular order:

2. Virginia Woolf — Three Guineas — profound anti-war book. It could come bound with A Room of One’s Own

3. Elizabeth Bowen’s Last September. I felt torn because she has a couple of great deep important books but this one exposes real politics in a culture too, a real civil war in the context of history, and has all the inwardness of her Death of the Heart (the other I thought of as Outstanding).

4. Ellen Moers — Literary Women. Several written after hers (Spacks’s Female Imagination, Showaltet A Literature of Their Own) and a couple before but it’s more popularly read, reached a wide audience. I thought of Gubar and Gilbert – Madwoman in the Attic but as a text it’s too academic. But I am willing to put G& as an alternative choice for changing the way we read books.

5. Mary Pipher, Saving Ophelia — this is transformational reading, and that its wider known than people think remember Saving appears in titles afterwards (recently Saving Bernice). I think it deeper and thus more important than Brownmller’s Against Our Will but am willing (as with the above) to put Brownmiller as alternative choice as Brownmiller was read and understood.

6. Rosamund Lehman — The Echoing Grove — yes, a romance novel, very geat one travestied by a movie and its title (insisted on by publishers) trashed by QDLeavis among others. Lead of novels by Drabble, Byatt, Elizabeth Taylor &&c

7, Lillian Hellman’s 4 volume memoir and several plays — including Childrens Hour (lesbianism), Autumn Garden

8. Elsa Morante, La Storia – great epic of WW1 into 2 focused on one powerless woman, powerful ending which made cry so: her disabled son rejected by all and his school, his dog his only companion: boy dies and police rush in and kill dog, and she dies 9 years before literal death in an asylum.

9. Christa Wollf — Cassandra and 4 essays. Powerful inditement of war, a travel book, a self-reflexive mediation bringing in ancient classics.

10. Adrienne Rich’s :DIving into the Wreck, an equivalent of ELiot’s _Wasteland but since it comes inside books of her poetry, just cite her poetry.

Really torn whether to cite Margaret Atwood and which one (the one I most enjoyed Alias Grace, a _Possession_ type book, I like them, but not wide enough in outward perspective — I sympathize with choice of Cat’s Eye but then I want to cite a couple of Valerie Martin’s, _Mary Reilly_ (in defense of sequels) ands/or Property; or Simone de Beauvoir (but I admit I never finished Second Sex) but that took me to 11 and/or 12. And have neglected great travel books: Vita Sackville-West’s on all of Yugoslavia and Eleanor Clark’s Rome and a Villa.

I know so little Russian books by women, can cite but one woman artist’s memoir Marie Bashkirtseff’s. I am hopelessly Eurocentric too.

I can link in two members’s lists: Elaine Pigeon’s counterlist; Diane Reynolds’s.

Do you have one, gentle reader? Under the sign of Jane Austen and all her sister-authors, can we let the men erase us like this? Such lists matter in the way handbooks, anthologies, histories of literature ever have.


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Star-gazing Fanny (Sylvestre Le Tousel) and Edmund (Nicholas Farrell) (1983 Mansfield Park)

Star-gazing Fanny (Billie Piper) and Edmund (Blake Ritson) (2007 Mansfield Park)

I think [Trilling’s] very strange. He says ‘nobody’ could like the heroine of Mansfield Park. I like her. Then he goes on and on about how modern people today, with ‘our’ modern attitudes ‘bitterly resent’ Mansfield Park because its heroine is virtuous. What’s wrong with a novel having a virtuous heroine?” (Audrey Rouget, Whit Stillman’s 1990 Metropolitan)

that disgrace to humanity, that pest of society, Elizabeth, who, murderess and wicked queen that she was confined her cousin, the lovely Mary Queen of Scots for NINETEEN YEARS and then brought her to an untimely, unmerited and scandalous death. Much to the eternal shame of the monarchy and the entire kingdom (Fanny Price, 1999 Mansfield Park)

Dear friends and readers,

Yesterday I sent off a proposal to give a talk on “What the four film adaptations have to tell us about Austen’s Mansfield Park and one another” at the JASNA in Montreal, 2014. I’ve been reading Austen’s strong novel, and re-watching all four films for the last several days, and found I like them all.

The best known is Patricia Rozema’s 1999 Mansfield Park, famously controversial, yet in many ways just another fusion of heritage, popular, romance, and Austen tropes:

Fanny (Francis O’Connor) and Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller) spend just as much time walking and talking in this film as any of the others or the novel

The least known is Stillman’s Metropolitan whose apparently elite cast has roused intense class antagonisms and prevented some of the actors from developing a career out of a movie that at the time was much admired by high culture critics (Vincent Canby) and at the Cannes Film Festival. I have written briefly on Stillman’s in-depth exploration of the complex characters, their relationships (especially the love of Fanny-Audrey for Edmund-Tom, evocation of the worlds of young adults,

Outside the Plaza Hotel, 59th, we get our first glimpse of our Fanny-Audrey (dark-haired Carolyn Farina), Tom-Edmund (ginger-hair, trenchcoat, alone, Edward Clements) Nick (Christopher Eigemann) and his girlfriend, Jane (Alison Rutledge-Parisi), Audrey’s best friend

the theme of parental misconduct (abandonment and hurt of their adult children), the difficulty of launching a career in this apparently well-connected world and succeeding at it; its exploration of what is ethical behavior, to say little of its many allusions to Austen’s MP, also Persuasion and Emma (there is a game played where losers have to tell candid truths inside their minds and as Mr Knightley says we find such truths can be searing, destructive) and that it’s a melancholy New York Christmas movie,

Audrey at St Patricks while Tom tunes into Channel 11 for the Yule Log & Carols …

I’ve defended the ceaselessly abused Maggie Wadey’s (the screenplay writer)’s 2007 abbreviated (93 minute) Mansfield Park at least 3 times, for its defense of the natural world as opposed to falsifying artifice, its hatred of bullying and stifling social conformity, and its addressing British issues of the 21st century.

And written now and again on the epistolarity, female narrator (3 of the films have this), Chekhovian feel, wonderful poetry of the 1983 film — ignored as uninventive (! — it’s ceaselessly semi-original). Ken Taylor’s screenplays, tone and pace and similar choice of plain actors (e.g., 1984 The Jewel in the Crown) has been admired again and again, while David Giles’s direction are deemed a saturnine delight (e.g., 1982 Barchester Chronicles).


Fanny and Edmund intertwined (1983)

Well over the week I read reviews of all the films: a wonderful defense of the 1983 film: Jan Fergus’s “Two Mansfield Parks: Purist and postmodern (Jane Austen on Screen, ed. G. and A. MacDonald); a full book on Stillman’s films with several essays on their relationship to Austen’s novels (Doomed Bourgeois in Love, ed. Mark C. Henrie), lively defenses of Rozema that I agree with (Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield in their Jane Austen in Hollywood, Alistair Duckworth in Eighteenth Century Fiction (2:4 [2000]:565-72): I really newly admired the Rozema film. It’s so interesting the many different kind of filmic techniques she employs to make humor, sexiness, pleasure-filled moments, some of the wit (though words are not her strength).

Writing out of spirit of gaiety (1999 writer of Juvenilia, Fanny)

And she does continually choose women’s icons, women’s figures in the talk (Joan of Arc), brings out the feminist talk of the book (Fanny: why should I jump when any man asks me to marry him). I like the way Lindsay Duncan acted the much-put upon controlled Mrs Price this time round — her pain very real (though Lady Bertram as drug addict was overdone).

Stoic endurance of painful goodbye (Lindsay Duncan as Mrs Price), selfless

I listened to the over-voice commentaries of Stillman, his film editor, and two of the actors; of Rozema on her film, and was able to read the screenplays for Metropolitan and Rozema’s MP.

As the not-asked pair, Tom-Edmund requests the pleasure of this dance with Audrey-Fanny (1990)

I made some discoveries.

All of them react to the movie (or movies) that came before (except of course the 1983 as it is the first film adaptation of MP to have been made), and there is an increase in intensification over areas of Mansfield Park which many readers apparently do not like: either what’s there is eliminated, or inverted, or (in the case of Stillman) defended vigorously. I discovered that the 2007 Mansfield Park does not depart any more radically from the book than Rozema’s 1999: both skip Sotherton (rather like the 1940 P&P skipped the visit to Pemberley). They are a body of films, apart from the films adapted from her other books. They are all literary: in her commentary Rozema reveals she thinks Mansfield Park was originally an epistolary novel, and all but Metropolitan have deeply subjective complicated sequences of over-voice, montage, blurring. They all have beautiful dance sequences, moments with stars.

Odd angle puts Henry (Alessandro Nivola) dancing with his sister, Mary; and Edmund, dancing with Fanny, just out of sight (1999)

What is the true sublime?

Mary’s harp arrives in an Bergman-like scene (1999)

They all have strong heroines — Sylvestre le Tousel is internal strength itself and quiet narrator again and again. Wadey uses deep-musing subjectivity to make her narrator over-voice as a young woman remembering her childhood. Rozema makes a sort of show of her author, Fanny. Stillman does eschew his sort of thing, but in his commentary he made some sharp observations that apply to Austen’s novel as well as his film: the subject matter is embarrassing and automatically controversial because the area dramatized is social class, exclusion, he called it social pornography with its talk so explicitly about the pain of existence in an elite milieu where individuals can fall away, fall out.

Mr and Mrs Bertram, imitating the close of the 2005 Joe Wright P&P: they are Mr and Mrs Bertram

Home without his daughter as in the 1979 and 1995 P&Ps

Which leads me to concentrate on an aspect of the 2007 Mansfield Park which was wholly unexpected: the regulation humiliation scene found in most Austen movies, nay frequently in all sorts of movies, but paradoxically especially in costume drama (supposed meant for women viewers), this scene for the central female in ordinary movie after ordinary movie is not there!

The rationale in Austen’s case is that indeed in her novels her heroines are taught rough lessons, and older essays about her books had titles like “The humiliation of Emma Woodhouse,” and “The humiliation of Elizabeth Bennett,” but it is arguable that the scene of confession, repentance, avowal to change one’s ways, is made more central in numbers of the films.

Doran Goodwin as Emma after Mr Knightley has left her scorched (1972 Emma)

Not all: it’s muted in Fay Weldon’s 1979 P&P, Davies just about omits it in his 1995 P&P by making Darcy’s ordeal the center of the story (he also makes Henry and Eleanor Tilney’s stories far more poignant, deflecting attention from the misogynistic anti-romance motif), but recently I’ve noticed it’s back in full force, as much in the free adaptations (Aisha and From Prada to Nada) as in some of the older ones (the S&S films all have it). Rozema’s Fanny is taught grim lessons by her biological mother to marry up (for money, Henry Crawford) which are reminiscent of the mother in Lost in Austen (you must marry is Amanda Price’s mother’s refrain).


Darcy (Elliot Cowan) reacting with great ferocity as Amanda (Jemima Rooper) in the wrong again – she is blamed for exposing everyone in P&P (Lost in Austen, 2009)

Well almost to my surprise, Maggie Wadey changes this. She uses the theme of the education of Sir Thomas to make the confession, repentance, avowal you were all wrong and at fault, Sir Thomas’s. The climactic moment is Douglas Hodge’s when he comes home (in a scene reminiscent of the scenes of Mr Bennett come home having failed to retrieve Lydia in the 79 and 95 P&P films) without Maria. He pretty well indicts himself thoroughly and we begin to see him unbend and change his ways.

Douglas Hodge as Sir Thomas telling what he has seen of himself

As if that was not enough, the scene (again justified by the book in part) where Edmund tells Fanny about his disillusion with Mary Crawford is turned into another self-reformation scene where Edmund asks Fanny to forgive him for being so blind. Lady Bertram is presented as knowing all along that Fanny loved Edmund (the “incest” motive is twice denied by having characters state strongly that Edmund is not Fanny’s brother and presenting Fanny’s love for William as part of her Cinderella story), Mrs Norris does really care for Maria (though she is corrosive in personality).

Wadey’s 1987 NA has not been liked, but it too eschews the girl done in by her reading by making the gothic far more real and changing language to make the famous speeches more pro-Catherine. I suggest this refreshing pattern has not been noticed because the movie has been so damned that people have not paid attention to its motives: I don’t say it’s a good movie — the loss of Sotherton and Portsmouth push it back to the one-hour TV versions of Austen which would omit visits to Pemberley (as did the 1940 movie), the Grants are dropped, and Mary Crawford made hard and mercenary,and at moments its pace and epitomizing scenes make it feel like dramatized cliff notes, so the critique of marriage is lost (but then it’s ignored by most movie-makers) and Henry Crawford oddly muddled. At least in 1999 he read Sterne’s passage about the starling who couldn’t get out, gives Fanny a wagon filled with these exhilarating birds, and is made (with Fanny) to enact the Harris Bigg-Wither proposal and morning-after rejection by Austen.

But Wadey’s script and this movie made from it breaks code in who gets humiliated, confesses, vows to do otherwise, is taught a lesson.


Embeth Davidtz as Mary Crawford “reasoning” with everyone

Having noticed this I began to see that Rozema’s also makes Sir Thomas’s conversion and remorse central, Edmund’s blindness and request for forgiveness explicit at the close of the movie. As a woman movie-maker determined to adhere to conventional notions of strength (and thus embarrassed by Fanny’s abjectness), she anticipates the 2007 movie. Not that there is no humiliation scene: there is, and it’s in Edmund’s scornful response to Mary’s long winded amoral suggestions about how to think about, what noit to do about Henry and Maria’s elopement and what they may hope for from Tom’s death, in a scene which gathers all the characters together as if this were a murder mystery. This is paradoxical and shows a lack of clarity in Rozema’s mind since Mary Crawford is a favorite character for her.


Fanny a renter and chuser of books (for Susan) — making me think of Jane Austen on Trim Street in Bath, coming home with her books

I recommend as deeply pleasurable and instructive watching in tandem all the movies coming out of a particular Austen novel. It can be another way into the nature of Austen’s text and themes to see the them transferred into different filmic conventions. The way in is to use film adaptations: when you have a group of them from one book you can examine the different kinds of relations between the successive films and the novel and the cultural and entertainment work they all perform.

Jane Austen left three thick packets of letters to Francis (whose daughter destroyed them after his death) (1983 Fanny, Wm and Edmund’s sister-bride)


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