“Strange mutations”: Shakespeare, Austen and cultural success
Works of literature prosper not through simple reproduction but through reinterpretations, quotations and transformations. Jane Austen's novels are now undergoing what seems a peculiar mutation indeed, being blended with material from modern horror films to comic effect. These current travesties heighten a process that has been going on since 1995, when a slew of Austen films and novelistic rewritings of her life began to hit popular culture with particular intensity. This movement of a literary figure from cultural prominence to megastardom - through adaptation of genre, resetting, hybridization and even travesty - has precedent with Shakespeare himself. This essay looks at the tripartite forces of transformation that created and marked Shakespeare's rise to extraordinary fame in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and which are creating and marking Austen's further rise in the late twentieth and early twenty-first: adaptation, travesty and fictionalization of the author.
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