Friday, September 20, 2013

Women's Lit & Marvel's Pride and Prejudice

In my junior year, I took a women's literature course with Dr. Mallory Young that completely changed the course of my education. Eventually it, together with Dr. Young's work, would influence the direction of my master's thesis. This class would also introduce me Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a work that would become my favorite of all time. Before that class, I had always understood the concepts of  feminist literary criticism as abstract concepts. For me, it was just one approach to literary criticism, significant but no more concrete in my understanding than, say, reader response or the plethora of other approaches to understanding literature.

Though feminism had always interested me,  its use as an approach to understanding literature was new territory. This one class changed everything for me. So much so that even though I've managed to misplace a lot of my university notebooks over the years, I still have all of the notes I took for this course. It wasn't just the feminist approach, but also how the novel is constructed, the different sorts of narrators, the types of novel genres (bildungsroman, for example), all of it was new territory for me. I'd been an avid reader for years, but before this class I'd never looked at my novels like a collection of parts, brought together expertly to create not just a story but an atmosphere and mindset.

But back to Pride and Prejudice, because it was this one book in particular that introduced me to the regency romance novel--it was also my favorite of the class, with Edith Wharton's The House of Myrth and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre trailing not far behind. This is where my love of all things regency began. This book was so influential for me that I strive to experience every single way it's presented. I love all the different covers (some more than others), the movie and mini-series adaptations (again, some more than others), the spin-off novels (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be the exception). I love everything the genre, because Jane Austen might certainly be considered a genre all of her own, offers.

So, when I saw that Marvel had issued a Pride and Prejudice graphic novel, I bought it. Just the cover was enough to convince me, though the graphic novel also recieved a whole lot of praise on the notoriously (un)reliable

I love that it's presented like a teen/woman's magazine cover. The presentation is remarkable, but the cover really doesn't do the work justice. Elizabeth Bennett is presented as an unassuming Miss on the cover, but inside she's rendered as a comic book beauty--though she's not as pretty as most of her sisters, Jane in particular, but prettier than Mary (poor girl!), which is particularly true to the story.

Still, I was concerned that Marvel might have done the work a disservice. Looking it over, though, that doesn't appear to be the case at all. Rather, Marvel has attempted to remain as true to the spirit of the work as possible, including dialogue that fits the original. The first page offers readers the traditional opening where in Lizzie warns that, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Austen 3) [1. From the Norton Critical Edition Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (2001), edited by Donald Gray.]. Overall, the presentation manages to be very much Jane Austen, while remaining very much Marvel, something that cannot have been easy to accomplish.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I bought the hard copy paperbacks of both the Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey graphic novels, which I might not have done had the latter been offered as an ebook (as was the former, which looks spectacular on my Kindle app for iPad, I might add). In fact, Northanger Abbey is even more significant to my thesis, in a direct way, because in writing it Jane Austen relied very heavily on Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho,  the most significant primary source used in my thesis. The cover for that one is beautiful, too, if less magazine-like.

Notably, Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen's most humorous work. It's something of a Gothic parody, wherein Catherine Morland is pursued by one gentleman while loving another, all the while allowing her Gothic imagination to overtake her common sense--I can't wait to read it!  It was also her first work completed for publication, though it wasn't published until several years after Pride and Prejudice.

I simply cannot wait to receive them in the mail. Thank goodness Matt's Amazon account has Prime. I should get them sometime early this coming week. In the mean time, I may re-read the original P&P, pick up NA, and read the ebook version of the P&P graphic novel. That should keep me busy when I'm not cleaning my house or writing my own regency romance novel. On second thought, I may dig into Northanger Abbey first, which I recall Dr. Young telling me required a bit of context, suggesting I finish Udolpho first. With that done, I have quite enough context, having now read both Udolpho and one of the books that have come be to be know as  the "Northanger horrid novels," Regina Maria Roche's Clermont. Both works I used to complete my thesis.