Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 20 2015 01:00PM

Fandom need not be monogamous. “It's apparent that there is a fannish personality,” the dance historian Allison Thompson told me when I interviewed her four years ago for Among the Janeites. “There are some people who get really into something, whatever it might be, and may even explore multiple fandoms.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a bunch of Janeites should turn out to be Star Wars geeks – or vice versa. Whichever it is, nine members of these overlapping fandoms spent an entertaining ninety minutes on Twitter one night earlier this month riffing on an excellent question, posed via a tweet from @Drunk_Austen (“It is a truth universally acknowledged that we're drunk”): “Are Han and Leia a galactic Darcy and Lizzy?”

The exchange includes many gems, as the participants wonder whether Darth Vader is more like Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins or Mr. Bennet; cast R2D2 as Lydia Bennet and the reviled Jar Jar Binks in the thankless role of Kitty; and posit the gnomic Yoda as the saga’s Austen-like narrator (“SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A YODA-AS-JANE-AUSTEN GRAPHIC!!!” implores one tweeter. “WITH THE CAPTION "A universal truth, it is!"). The best of the lot may be the tweet highlighting a hitherto unnoticed resemblance between Chewbacca and the actor Crispin Bonham-Carter, who plays Mr. Bingley in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

My answer to the initial question, by the way: Sure, Han and Leia are Darcy and Lizzy, because Austen created a prototype – the first-she-hates-him-then-she-loves-him plot -- that has been cheerfully ripped off by every romantic-comedy author who came after her, including George Lucas. Infinitely adaptable to all eras, situations and galaxies, it’s a storyline that never goes out of style.

By the way, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page linked above. You wouldn’t want to miss the picture of Jane Austen with a light saber.

By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 30 2014 01:00PM

Are Janeites just Trekkies in bonnets?

We Austen fans are used to the Trekkie comparison, which often serves as a shorthand way to disparage any enthusiastic fandom. Sometimes we embrace the analogy, sometimes we disdain it – I guess it all depends on how you feel about Trekkies.

Once again, our two fandoms have been yoked, this time in a cute item (subscription required) from the heart of Indiana: the student orchestra of Indiana Wesleyan University, an evangelical Christian school in the town of Marion, will present a concert of music from the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” movies and from “Pride and Prejudice” (presumably the 2005 Keira Knightley version).

Beethoven, despite his total lack of sci-fi credentials, has also been smuggled onto the program, perhaps because he and Austen shared a birthday (Ludwig was five years older than Jane), perhaps because she owned the sheet music for some compositions he arranged, or perhaps just because the IWU piano professor wanted to play the extraordinary “Emperor” concerto. Whatever the reason, it’s all good.

Although the concert is scheduled for a week after Halloween, attendees are encouraged to come in any costume relevant to the occasion. The pointy ears of Mr. Spock, the cinnamon-bun hairstyle of Princess Leia, the Empire waist of Elizabeth Bennet – they’re all welcome, apparently.

Freshman violinist Lauren McDowell is quoted as saying that working on the concert has made her “interested in learning more about Jane Austen, though she said she was ‘raised on Star Wars.’ ”

Lauren, college is all about learning new things. Your next homework assignment: Pride and Prejudice before Christmas vacation.

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