Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice has endured as a popular favorite for 200 years, as of January 2013. What is it about P&P that has enabled its blockbuster status to last – and even blossom – in the 21st century? Paula Marantz Cohen of The Smart Set (and Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University) has some ideas… Ten of them, in fact.
1) Visual potential. Postmodern culture is visual, and though Jane Austen is a consummate literary stylist, her novels are superbly cinematic — P&P, especially so. It’s as if Austen had her eye on the option when she wrote: The plot is simple and easy to translate to the screen; there are sprightly protagonists and juicy character roles; the period locales are relatively simple to re-create and sumptuous to look at (i.e. well-furnished country houses, manicured lawns and bucolic walks, Empire dresses, frock coats and breeches); and there is plentiful and pithy dialogue. Given the adaptations that currently exist, we can now spend hours arguing over the relative merits of the BBC P&P (the general favorite), the problematic but, to some, irresistible, Keira Knightley version, and the 1940 Greer Garson-Laurence Olivier Hollywood treatment in which Lady de Bourgh (Edna May Oliver) is represented as a lovable old codger who is on Darcy’s side all along. (I confess — I love it!). In discussing P&P adaptations, there will always be the inevitable detour into extolling the adorableness of Colin Firth (Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC version and also Mark Darcy in the P&P update, Bridget Jones’s Diary). If Jane Austen is a brand and P&P, the best-selling product, Colin Firth is the star salesman in the franchise. Yes, he’s getting long in the tooth, but that only means he can be cast as Mr. Bennet in the next adaptation.
2) Internet fodder. The accumulation of speculation and secondary material about Jane Austen has resulted in a healthy life online. There are YouTube clips, fan blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook postings, and other manners of outreach. This seems only right. Jane Austen was into the sort of minutiae that the Internet thrives on — her canvas, “that little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which on which I work with so fine a brush,” is ideal for microscopic parsing.
Read the entire list right here: http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article12211202.aspx