Review–Among the Janeites

Deborah Yaffe’s Among the Janeites: A Journey through the World of  Jane Austen Fandom  is an interesting look at the often fervent fans of Jane Austen. According to Yaffe, Austen is interpreted by people differently. She is considered liberal, conservative, radically feminist and completely domestic. Her writing is either artless or carefully constructed, sharp or sweet. She’s all things to all people.

I quite liked Pride and Prejudice, but was in a bad mood when I went to read Sense and Sensibility. However, I also enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Clueless, so I am not the most ardent fan (although her book was the best in the course I read it in).

Although the book follows the pattern of the last one I read of being somewhat journalistic and somewhat memoir-like, here it works. The two tones complement each other. And no section is too long. However, there are sometimes a few too many people per section, some of which are returned to later in the narrative and some of whom aren’t. Yaffe covers academics, movie fans, cosplayers, people who argue on the internet (what an idea!), event organizers, and she even delves into the more kitschy aspects of Austen potholders and thongs (!). She touches on Austen’s brief biography (private person who have their letters burned are naturally more obscure), but I would recommend a good Austen bio before delving in, although it’s not required. It’s also going to be helpful if you’ve read at least one work by Austen (although you’ll get more from this work if you’ve read more).

This is an enjoyable and fair look at the various aspect of a fandom–and may be helpful if you’re an outside attempting to understand any fandom. It’s interesting and zippy, with some delightful writing and moments.

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