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Sweetening Jane: Equivalence through Genre, and the Problem of Class in Austen Adaptations

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This article argues that an approach to understanding adaptations in terms of genre offers a perspective at least as productive as considerations of the verbal and visual languages of prose and cinema. Examining three recent Austen adaptations Sense and Sensibility (Lee 1995), Emma (McGrath 1996), and Pride and Prejudice (Wright 2005), but also addressing other film and television versions it demonstrates that efforts to make the new texts conform to prevailing expectations for romantic comedy, explain key changes. In tandem with these alterations, and also a component of the adaptive sweetening process, various interventions allow the derived texts to present an altered ideological temperament to their originals. This encompasses the films' handling of class and issues of sexual politics, and is manifested in the systematic excision and reduction of original elements, as well as in schemes of addition and amplification.
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Keywords: Austen; adaptation; class; genre; intertextuality; romantic comedy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Writtle College.

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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