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15 minutes of Austen, Part 3 with Emma Clery

Posted: 27th March 2015
15 minutes of Austen, Part 3 with Emma Clery

Emma is a Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of Southampton, with responsibilities for developing the link with Chawton House Library, a centre for the study of early women’s writing with a unique collection of rare books. She teaches undergraduate and MA courses based at Chawton and Southampton.

How do you feel about the rise of modern supernatural fiction like, for example, Twilight?


I always find them fascinating: I wrote my PhD thesis on supernatural fiction produced in the eighteenth century, and have published on gothic. There’s a perennial question – how can pleasure be derived from fear – that’s endured from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. That’s what drove my research in this area, and no doubt the answers are different in different periods. I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

I think it’s a shame that it hasn’t been talked about more in relation to Twilight because you had the vampire romance going on there first. And obviously it was treated in a much more light-hearted humorous way and that’s missing from Twilight. I saw the first in the Twilight film series on television recently, and enjoyed it. I like the low-key element of the supernatural, closer to the subtle, suggestive effects used by early gothic writers. Nothing too graphic. I can’t stomach that, I’m very squeamish, so that’s about my level!


What are your views on what makes a text ‘literary?’jane austen


Whether something is ‘literary’ or not I suppose doesn’t matter as long as people are reading. That’s what Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft said, at a time when novels had a low literary status. Both of them defended novels to some extent, Austen more trenchantly than Wollstonecraft. The connection between Austen and the gothic is of course Northanger Abbey and there’s that famous outburst by the narrator saying ‘yes, a novel!’ She explains that her heroine has been reading novels because in most novels of the time a heroine would never be caught dead reading a novel, any kind of novel and certainly not a gothic novel.

 

Austen defends the novel, including gothic novels, even though she’s laughing at the formulaic nature of gothic to some extent in Northanger Abbey. She still felt that as Mary Wollstonecraft put it ‘it was better than leaving a blank to the blank’ and that there were things to be gained from it. I believe she really learned a lot about narrative technique from Ann Radcliffe, who was the most famous writer in the gothic mode in that period.


For further reading on Jane Austen and the gothic mode, make sure you check out this informative site:http://austenauthors.net/jane-austen-and-the-gothic-novel. Featured image: Contemporary illustration to The Castle of Otranto, an example of 18th c. gothic literature by Horace Walpole. Via ‘Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Collection.

 

Emma is a Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of Southampton, with responsibilities for developing the link with Chawton House Library, a centre for the study of early women’s writing with a unique collection of rare books. She teaches undergraduate and MA courses based at Chawton and Southampton.

 

How do you feel about the rise of modern supernatural fiction like, for example, Twilight?


I always find them fascinating: I wrote my PhD thesis on supernatural fiction produced in the eighteenth century, and have published on gothic. There’s a perennial question – how can pleasure be derived from fear – that’s endured from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. That’s what drove my research in this area, and no doubt the answers are different in different periods. I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think it’s a shame that it hasn’t been talked about more in relation to Twilight because you had the vampire romance going on there first.

 

And obviously it was treated in a much more light-hearted humorous way and that’s missing from Twilight. I saw the first in the Twilight film series on television recently, and enjoyed it. I like the low-key element of the supernatural, closer to the subtle, suggestive effects used by early gothic writers. Nothing too graphic. I can’t stomach that, I’m very squeamish, so that’s about my level!


What are your views on what makes a text ‘literary?’


Whether something is ‘literary’ or not I suppose doesn’t matter as long as people are reading. That’s what Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft said, at a time when novels had a low literary status. Both of them defended novels to some extent, Austen more trenchantly than Wollstonecraft. The connection between Austen and the gothic is of course Northanger Abbey and there’s that famous outburst by the narrator saying ‘yes, a novel!’ She explains that her heroine has been reading novels because in most novels of the time a heroine would never be caught dead reading a novel, any kind of novel and certainly not a gothic novel.

 

Austen defends the novel, including gothic novels, even though she’s laughing at the formulaic nature of gothic to some extent in Northanger Abbey. She still felt that as Mary Wollstonecraft put it ‘it was better than leaving a blank to the blank’ and that there were things to be gained from it. I believe she really learned a lot about narrative technique from Ann Radcliffe, who was the most famous writer in the gothic mode in that period.

 

Featured image: Contemporary illustration to The Castle of Otranto, an example of 18th c. gothic literature by Horace Walpole. Via ‘Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Collection

 


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