In 1975, in an essay for a collection measuring Austen’s achievement, Donald Greene addressed “The Myth of Limitation,” as he described it “the one steady landmark in the swirling waters of Jane Austen criticism.” That landmark was defined by her lack of engagement with the turmoil of her world (its class upheavals, its tumultuous political events). Jane Austen’s limitation, however, was also implicitly defined by genre, subject, gender, and especially geography. Critical landmarks have shifted, almost unrecognizably, in the last thirty-three years. Not only has the geo-political map of Austen’s world changed, but the very conception of mapping has become increasingly understood as subjective. We map in order to recognize our world and the boundaries within it. Mapping connotes iterative attempts to understand terrain that we may—or may not—share. Our maps differ according to how we see the world. Even that last sentence, simple as it is, demands revision. “Our maps,” “we see,” “the world”—these categories, too, are shifting.
The young Fanny Price arrives at Mansfield Park from Portsmouth, a busy site of naval activity, to face the scorn of her cousins.
“[She] cannot put the map of Europe together— . . . cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia— . . . never heard of Asia minor. . . . [W]e asked her last night, which way she would go to get to Ireland; and she said, she should cross to the Isle of Wight. She thinks of nothing but the Isle of Wight, and she calls it the Island, as if there were no other island in the world.”
Just as Fanny’s vision becomes more global during the course of Mansfield Park, so readers of Jane Austen have enlarged their sense of the connections of her fiction to her world and to “ours.” We read Austen in terms of her literary predecessors and contemporaries in England and abroad, the gender relations her novels explore, her connection to political and historical events, the cultural uses to which she and her fiction have been put since the initial London publication of her six novels. This map is ever more crowded, and ever changing.
Our special issue of Persuasions On-Line, then, is devoted to Global Jane Austen. It provides a collection of essays exploring the relationships between a figure defined as “the most thoroughly English” writer and the worlds that preceded her, the worlds she inhabited, and the other worlds that have remade her.
The first essays, under the rubric “Austen’s Global Inheritance,” explore the ways Austen herself moved beyond the local, the ways she drew from a wider world than we might have imagined. Claudia Martin’s “Austen’s Assimilation of Lockean Ideals: The Appeal of Pursuing Happiness” not only investigates Austen’s engagement with the Enlightenment philosopher but also suggests a reason for her popularity with egalitarian or democratic audiences across the world today. Lucy Morrison spotlights the turn-of-the-century importation of the German drama in “Jane Austen and August von Kotzebue: Linking Emma to a German Dramatic Tradition,” widening the discussion beyond Lovers’ Vows to focus on Austen’s appropriation of Kotzebue’s Die Versöhnung. Essays by Kuldip Kaur Kuwahara, Susan Allen Ford, and Rhodri Windsor Liscombe follow Austen’s eastward gaze. Kuwahara’s “The Power of Storytelling and Deferral: Anne Elliot, Jane Austen, and Scheherazade” reads Austen’s brief but telling engagement with a set of Middle-Eastern tales that she might have encountered through either an English or French translation. Ford’s “Fanny’s ‘great book’: Macartney’s Embassy to China and Mansfield Park” explores what Austen and her early readers might have made of Fanny’s literary excursions to China. Windsor Liscombe’s “From the Polar Seas to Australasia: Jane Austen, ‘English culture,’ and Regency Orientalism” tracks the impact of distant cultures on Regency architecture as well as on the design of objects that Austen would have seen daily.
The essays of the second group, “Austen’s Global Incarnations,” examine the ways Austen’s work has been adapted in a variety of global contexts. Eleanor J. Hogan and Inger Sigrun Brodey in “Jane Austen in Japan: ‘Good Mother’ or ‘New Woman’?” consider her transformation at the hands of novelists Natsume Sōseki and Nogami Yaeko. Aya Satoh examines more specific links between novels written in different times and places, Pride and Prejudice and The Makioka Sisters, in “Caught Between Old and New: The Changing Face of Marriage in Austen and Tanizaki.” In “Jane Austen in Turkey,” Rana Tekcan charts the hazards of translation and marketing and surveys Turkish interest in Austen today. Mari Carmen Romero Sànchez, in her essay “A la Señorita Austen: An Overview of Spanish Adaptation,” conducts a remarkable work of excavation, bringing to light Spanish television versions of the 1960s and 1970s, and setting them in the larger context of Spanish interest in Jane Austen from the nineteenth century onward.
Five more essays, grouped as “Global Austen Today,” consider a further variety of twenty-first century transformations. Allison Thompson’s “Trinkets and Treasures: Consuming Jane Austen” examines the much-vaunted material culture of Austenmania—from stitch-your-own samplers to thong underwear. Juliette Wells looks at a very different kind of cross-cultural appropriation in “True Love Waits: Austen and the Christian Romance in the Contemporary U. S.” Three other essays consider Austen and film. In “Lady Bathurst’s Patriotic Ballroom, or ‘Reading Austen at a Distance’: The French Revolutionary Wars in Recent Adaptations,” Gillian Dow considers the motives for underlining (or ignoring) England’s wars with France in recent television and film adaptations. Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield examine the discomfort of contemporary filmmakers with Austen’s lack of advocacy for women’s careers and her critical attitude toward the family in “Appropriating Austen: Localism on the Global Scene.” R. N. Simhan’s “The Banquet of Desire: A South Indian Sense and Sensibility” scrutinizes the strategies by which Kandukondain Kandukondain manages difference through exotic juxtapositions.
Bringing together this wealth of essays has entailed many negotiations on a global scale. A few people should be singled out for mention. Marsha Huff, President of the Jane Austen Society of North America, was an early and enthusiastic supporter of this project. Benjamín Burgos Aguilar provided help navigating the shoals of translation from Spanish to English. Lee Ridgeway, JASNA’s Publications Secretary, and Carol Medine Moss took pains to make the many images in this issue as sharp and as vibrant and as effective as possible. Carol Moss, JASNA’s Web Manager, is the one person without whom this issue would not exist. She advertised it; she urged the inclusion of “more images” while the papers were still at the state of abstracts; she converted documents; she solved the new problems of adding so much visual material, including film clips; she implemented what seemed like endless corrections to these pages—and she accomplished all that not only with great efficiency but with marvelous good cheer.
And, finally, the contributors to Global Jane Austen—representing many countries, many languages—have made this project an extraordinarily rich and exciting experience. We are grateful that our maps of the world of Jane Austen now have inscribed on them new landmarks, almost as far flung as the Polar seas.