why I’m all into Regency right now

February 21, 2014

The first time I read Pride and Prejudice was in high school, for AP English, and I hated it.  I think this was because it was Serious Literature.  The teacher (who I never really got along with, long story there) was careful to tell us how Serious it is, and we talked about its Seriousness.  The whole time I was thinking, this is a freaking soap opera about people getting married.  Hell no.

Then I watched a bunch of Monty Python, as you do when you’re a nerd moving on to college.

When I read Pride and Prejudice the second time, in college, I realized it’s funny, in the same way Monty Python is funny.  It’s all caricature and satire, some of it utterly scathing.  Even Elizabeth is frequently mockable because she’s so sure she can read everyone else, but she knows herself so little.  If someone had just told me the first time around that this was supposed to be funny and we’re allowed to laugh at it — in fact, we’re supposed to laugh at it — it wouldn’t have taken me another 15-20 years to become a fan of Jane Austen.

Then I was introduced to the BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, with all those beautiful clothes and settings, and I watched a bunch of the other films, and read the books, and I thought, What would this look like with werewolves?  Because of course that’s what I would think.

So I’m working on that.

In the meantime, I’ve read a bunch of Austen and I’ve even started reading other authors’ takes on Regency romance, an entire genre invented by people trying to replicate Austen.  There’s even a whole genre of sequels to Pride and Prejudice, about what happens to Lizzie and Darcy after they get married.  I have to admit:  I don’t like the sequels so far, and I stopped reading P.D. James Death Comes to Pemberley entirely.  You know why?  They’re not funny.  They strip Elizabeth of all her wit.  All the pointed social commentary and character studies are just gone, as if the world of P&P ought to suddenly be taken seriously.  It’s all tedious dialog and description of manners and nothing of the satire and the pointed zingers of Austen — which is the whole point of Austen.  (You want to know my idea for a Pride and Prejudice sequel?  “Fitzwilliam Darcy Jr., Pioneering Naturalist, and His Adventures in India.”  This must be why I’m a genre writer.)

I love the costumes when I’m watching the movies, and I’m finally making a Regency gown after years of wanting to do so.  I know there’s a level at which it’s all about the clothes and manners.  But dammit, my Regency stories are going to make people smile.

11 Responses to “why I’m all into Regency right now”

  1. Rachel L Says:

    Absolutely. I feel many English teachers shoot themselves in the foot when introducing as you refer to it “serious literature” it makes the student’s fearful of literature.

    I think you would greatly enjoy “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” a modern multi-faceted retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Words cannot do it justice so I’ll just put the link here: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXfbQAimgtbk4RAUHtIAUww

  2. Todd Says:

    Being in the SCA, I imagine you have gone to dances and such, but I was wondering if you have ever tried English Country Dance? I’ve been involved with a group in Boise for nearly three years, and it’s fantastic! Most of our group are members of the Jane Austen Society, and became interested in ECD because of the various miniseries and movies which depict Elizabeth and Darcy dancing in that stately, lovely manner.

    There are many groups across the U.S., and I’m quite certain there are some in your area. Most of the larger cities have very active groups with live musicians and frequent balls. You would look amazing in one of your Regency gowns, and fit right in! Check out the link below, which will give you an idea of what it’s about if you aren’t already into it. 🙂

  3. Kendall Says:

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to read any of the contemporary takes on Jane Austen and that genre. Especially not the zombie ones. It’s mostly me being totally close-minded.
    I think you’d do a good job with this werewolf-Regency romance project, though. It sounds like you’d know what you’re doing with that. I’m excited to read it, whenever it’s out. 🙂

  4. carriev Says:

    Rachel, do you have any opinions about “Lost in Austen?” That’s one I’ve been hearing about but haven’t seen.

    Todd: That’s actually my deadline for finishing my gown! There’s a ball out this way the second weekend of March I plan on attending, I hope to have pictures. And yes, having danced “Hole in the Wall” in the SCA made writing the dance scene in the story much easier!

    Kendall, I’ll let you know just as soon as it’s ready!

  5. Varza Says:

    I would love for you to write a book in the Austen world with werewolves but maybe not with Liz and Co but Mr Darcy’s cousin… this is why she appears like such a weakling and is sick?

    BTW, I am researching werewolves right now for a class and I came across a book that made me think of the research Kitty is doing. It’s called William and the Wolf. Some believe its a tale of St. William who is always pictured with a wolf. According to the tale its about him being rescued as a child from being murdered by his father and his uncle by a werewolf who then raised him in the forest. I wasn’t sure if you had heard of it. I found a book that was originally published in the 1820s by a society in England that had members of the Aristocracy who were studying the topic. I couldn’t remember if your character had come across it.

  6. Jaws Says:

    Blackadder III. The real Regency comedy (quite literally, and literarily).

    OK, it utterly fails the Bechdel test, but still…

  7. carriev Says:

    “Amy and Amiability” was my favorite.

  8. Jazzlet Says:

    Your introduction to Jane Austen is so sad, what an appalling teacher.
    I was very lucky, Miss Evans was very clear that Persuasion was a comedy of manners and in order to show us how funny it was she played us a BBC Radio 4 dramatisaation in class. Most of us went right out and read the rest of Jane Austen as quickly as we could.

  9. carriev Says:

    Varza — I hadn’t heard that story, I’ll have to check it out. There are several medieval stories about werewolves being good guys — Bisclavret by Marie de France is another one.

    Jazzlet — this class was awful. She used a textbook that presented short stories in pairs: “good” literature v. “popular, sentimentalist drivel,” in pretty much those terms. It was appalling. I pretty much became a delinquent in that class, to show my disgust, right up to the day that we were supposed to give oral presentations, and I brought in a blender and did a fake commercial for “This is your brain on popular literature” and tossed the apple into the blender and let fly. The whole class cheered and applauded. The teacher _hated_ me.

  10. Jazzlet Says:

    I bet she hates even you even more now you are a published author of what she would no doubt call trash 😉

  11. (Rachel L here- Logged in using Facebook this time)

    Carrie: Your innovative approach (with a blender) to a narrow minded teacher makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I have seen “Lost in Austen” and did enjoy it. It is an interesting take on a modernization as it shows a girl from modern-day England entering the world of Pride and Prejudice (as opposed to modernizing the entire story).
    I personally enjoyed the Lizzie Bennet Diaries a tad more as it was more of a unique integrated experience as it combined several perspectives using video blogs, twitter and tumblr as its method of conveyance.

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