Better, Deeper, More Intelligent
The classic examples of that would be any speech by Judi Dench — her accent certainly helps — or Emma Thompson’s understated, wryly funny acceptance speech at the 1996 Oscars, when she won the award for best adapted screenplay for “Sense and Sensibility.”
“Before I came, I went to visit Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral to pay my respects, you know, and tell her about the grosses, ” she said. She also thanked Sidney Pollack “for asking the right questions, like, ‘Why couldn’t these women go out and get a job? ’ ” Ms. Thompson — who accepted another award, at the Golden Globes, with a speech in the style of Jane Austen herself — then did what cool British award winners do: she put the Oscar in her guest bathroom.
These days, America is menaced by zombie banks and zombie computers. What’s next, a zombie Jane Austen? In fact, yes. Minor pandemonium ensued in the blogosphere this month after Quirk Books announced the publication of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, ” an edition of Austen’s classic juiced up with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem” by a Los Angeles television writer named Seth Grahame-Smith. (First line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”) … In fact, “Pride and Prejudice” may already be a zombie novel, contends Brad Pasanek, a specialist in 18th-century literature at the University of Virginia. “The characters other than the protagonist are so often surrounded by people who aren’t fully human, like machines that keep repeating the same things over and over again, ” Professor Pasanek said. “All those characters shuffling in and out of scenes, always frustrating the protagonists. It’s a crowded but eerie landscape. What’s wrong with those people? They don’t dance well but move in jerky fits. Oh, they are headed this way! ” While the vast industry of Austen sequels and pastiches runs heavily toward the romance-novel end of the literary spectrum - see “The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy” by Maya Slater, to be published in the United States in June - scholars have long emphasized the mean-girl side of Jane’s personality. Professor Pasanek, who has collaborated on a project that uses spam-detection software to analyze Austen fan fiction, cites the psychologist D. W. Harding’s 1940 essay “Regulated Hatred, ” which sounds more like a death-metal band than a piece of influential Austen scholarship.“Most people try to ignore the fact that Austen’s novels are sort of acid baths, ” Professor Pasanek said. “She’s so much better, deeper, more sensitive and intelligent than everyone around her that she has to regulate her own misanthropy. Her novels are hostile environments.”