Our 4-day symposium focuses on one of Austen’s works each summer. The Jane Austen Summer Program is designed to appeal to established scholars, high school teachers, graduate students, undergraduate students, and anyone with a passion for all things Austen.
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Writers have been able to translate Pride and Prejudice to multiple settings and time periods. Here are four recent retellings of note:
“Pride,” Ibi Zoboi
In this young-adult update of “Pride and Prejudice,” Zuri Benitez, a proud teenager from a working-class Afro-Latino family in Brooklyn, takes an immediate dislike to Darius, son of the bougie Darcys who fix up the mansion across the street. The book explores gentrification and classicism in a diverse neighborhood and cleverly updates elements of the original novel. Much of Zuri’s innermost thoughts are expressed through poetry.
“Ayesha at Last,” Uzma Jalaluddin
This enjoyable retelling is set in a Muslim community in modern-day Toronto. Ayesha is a poet and teacher who is always helping out her flaky cousin Hafsa. Khalid is a conservative Muslim who dresses in robes and believes his mother will arrange a wise match for him. When Hafsa ditches on a project to help their mosque, Ayesha and Khalid are thrown together, and fireworks fly. This book, which isn’t available in the states yet, is a great adaptation of P&P into another culture.
“First and Then,” Emma Mills
What happens if “Pride and Prejudice” meet “Friday Night Lights”? You get this YA book. Devon is a Jane Austen-loving teenager who butts heads with football hero Ezra during gym class. When her cousin joins the football team and befriends Ezra, Devon’s and Ezra’s paths can’t help but cross. Is Ezra as arrogant as Devon thinks? While not a straight retelling of “Pride and Prejudice,” this book contains a few Austen shout-outs, and the chemistry between Devon and Ezra make for a fun, and often touching, read.
“Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe,” Melissa de la Cruz
This retelling gender=swaps the main characters: Darcy, a high-powered female executive, returns to her family home for the holidays and has a one-night stand with hometown carpenter Luke Bennet, whose siblings are unambitious. This is a good read during the holidays.
Love it or hate it, the Seth Grahame-Smith book “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” — which sets Pride and Prejudice in a world where zombies are rampant — put a whole new spin on Jane Austen’s novel. And just as with Austen’s works, PPZ had a film adaptation of its own. We take a look at a few highlights. WARNING: Spoilers if you haven’t seen the film or read the book.
Sisters who fight together …
The Bennet sisters in PPZ are no damsels in distress. They trained to fight zombies in China (which of course isn’t as good as being trained in Japan), and they can often be found sparring against one another. And they wouldn’t be caught dead without any weapons — even at a ball. The training scenes are some of the most fun in the film.
Mr. Collins yuks it up
Matt Smith — whom you may recognize as Prince Philip in “The Crown” or the Eleventh Doctor in “Doctor Who” — steals every scene he’s in as the inane Mr. Collins. His take on the clergyman is one of the best parts of the movie. If you want to skip the movie, check out the outtakes from his scenes here.
Lady Catherine — a good guy?
Lena Heady brings a steely-ness to Lady Catherine in the film as an accomplished and well-respected warrior in the fight to rid the world of zombies.
Fight scene or proposal scene — or both?
PPZ turns Darcy’s failed proposal into a literal fight as Lizzy and Darcy trade blows — and barbs.
Where have I heard that line?
The PPZ film keeps Jane Austen fans on their toes: If you listen carefully, you’ll hear lines inspired by Austen’s other novels, including “Northanger Abbey,” “Emma” and “Persuasion.”
“Now here’s Mr. Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever he meets him and then he will be killed, and what is to become of us all?” — Mrs. Bennet, “Pride and Prejudice”
This reference to duels in “Pride and Prejudice” is fleeting, but it says a lot about the tradition of duels in society during that era.
Duels were usually fought after three instances: (1) disrespecting a woman or female relative; (2) unsatisfactory behavior, such as cheating; or (3) physical attack. They were generally fought between men, but women were known to duel, too.
A Code of Honour dictated the rules: The main parties (the principals) had 48 hours to duel. In the meantime, they chose their seconds, the men who would have their back. The principals agreed on the time and place, while the seconds chose the weapons and, on the day, loaded the guns and marked the firing distance. After the duel, if the principals were able, they would salute each other and leave the field.
Notable duels between men
Richard Brinsley Sheridan vs. Captain Thomas Mathews, 1772
The two dueled twice with swords over singer Elizabeth Linley, a famous singer at the time. Mathews had written a newspaper article disparaging her. Mathews lost the first duel but lived and challenged the playwright to another a few months later; Sheridan was seriously injured but survived.
Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr, 1804
Founding father Alexander Hamilton (you might have heard about him lately, thanks to a little smash musical called “Hamilton”; the musical even has a song laying out the rules of duels) and Burr were rivals before a newspaper article said Hamilton had insulted Burr’s character. Burr then challenged Hamilton. Reports are conflicted about the details of the duel, but Hamilton died about 36 hours after he was wounded.
Duke of Wellington vs. Lord Winchilsea, 1829
Wellington and Winchilsea disagreed over Catholic emancipation, prompting Wellington to issue a challenge. During the duel Wellington fired first but missed, as did Winchilsea.
Alexander Pushkin vs. George D’Anthès, 1837
D’Anthes was rumored to be having an affair with Natalya, the wife of celebrated writer Pushkin, when Pushkin received a letter saying he had been elected to “The Most Serene Order of Cuckolds.” Although Pushkin rescinded his challenge against D’Anthes, it was later renewed. In the ensuing duel, Pushkin was killed.
Sources: “An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England,” by Venetia Murray; “Georgette Heyer’s Regency World,” by Jennifer Kloester; the Constitution Center; Mental Floss